The government agency responsible for tourism development in Mexico has reportedly been negotiating with six cruise lines that transit the Panama Canal in an attempt to attract ship calls to its new Pacific Ocean resort.

The newly created Bays of Huatulco, which was funded by the Banco de Mexico and the National Trust Fund For Tourism Development (Fonatur), sits about 350 miles south of Acapulco and recently completed a 100-foot pier at its new marina in Santa Cruz Bay to dock potential tenders.

Project Manager Daniel Ortiz said that Fonatur officials are currently seeking to attract cruise ships that would anchor in Santa Cruz Bay but have long-range plans to build a two-berth finger pier if cruise lines show sufficient interest.

Although the 51,900-acre Huatulco resort had minimal airlift and limited water, sewage and highway facilities before 1980, Ortiz explained that Fonatur developed the Bays of Huatulco International Airport in 1987 and also built a major new highway to connect the once secluded bays to the City of Oaxaca.

Ortiz said that a 1,000-bed Club Med and the 75-room Binniguenda Hotel recently opened at the new resort at adjacent Tangolunda Bay and that the 310-room Sheraton Huatulco Hotel is scheduled to open there next March.

Fonatur created a 30-year Master Plan that calls for the creation of a vast new infrastructure of public and tourist facilities, Ortiz explained, and the creation of more than 26,000 hotel rooms by 2018 for the expected 2 million annual tourists. He noted that Santa Cruz will house two public plazas adjacent to the marina and potential cruise pier and that the shopping plazas should be completed by the end of the year.

Ortiz said that Fonatur had long-range plans to convince cruise lines that usually operate seven-day roundtrip winter sailings from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera to launch 10- or 11-day one-way cruises to Huatulco from either Los Angeles or San Diego. He noted that shore excursions are already intact and should expand rapidly because an additional 500 hotel rooms are expected to be built at the resort each year between 1989 and 1994.