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Old 03-04-10, 03:36 PM   #1
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Default Rich People on Airplanes

How’s that Escalera Nautica
Sea of Cortez Project Workin’ Out for you?

Now It’s
“Wanted, rich people on airplanes”

I spent all morning looking for tourist spending statistics for Mexico. I also took a nice walk on the beach – should have walked farther, passed on the search. The stats were all over the place. Shoulda figured. I used to be in the insurance business. Thank God I was never in the statistics part of it. I do know one “statistics joke.”

Two insurance actuaries go deer hunting together. From their moving truck they spot a nice buck in a snowy field, stop to try a long rifle shot. The first guy shoots and they see the bullet hit the snow 100 feet to the left. The other guy grabs the gun and says “you were way off, give me that thing.”

He shoots and the bullet hits 100 feet to the right. The first guy says “we got him!”

The real joke is that there are no realistic, credible figures for tourist spending in Mexico (or anywhere else) because revenue reporting is flawed or non-existent; averaging things like spending will get you in trouble fast.

Those of you who have vacationed in Mexico would be hard pressed to report to anyone how much you spent per day, per trip, etc. and those who took the money did not follow you as you checked out, left the area, to make sure they had a good total. It matters little your mode of transportation, your lodging costs or your length of stay. It also makes little sense, if you knew the exact daily expenditures, to try to average the daily expense rate of $15,000 dollars of some Saudi Sheik with the beer and cerveza chump change squeezed out by the guy who sleeps on the beach and eats almost nothing but triggerfish chowder.

Search engines peg the fly/drive pilgrim at $600 U.S. dollars to $700 U.S. dollars per day, cruise ship passengers (they say) spend between $50 and $70 each per day per port of call.

So, for the purposes of this little essay on The Sea of Cortez Project, Cruise Ships, Water Taxis, and Piers I use a more realistic and manageable paradigm:

A. A whole lot of money
B. Not so much
C. Hardly any

Baja California, for tourists traveling by water, is almost like road travel was before the paved highway. There are no real deep-water ports: Ensenada has limited dockage for cruise ships, La Paz has a very narrow, shallow harbor entrance and limited docking facilities, Cabo San Lucas has mooring only. So even though the peninsula is close to U.S. west coast harbors the big ships still struggle to put passengers ashore (less revenues from on board gambling while in port, huge moorage, pilot and water taxi fees for example).

At every port of call the cruise industry attempts to arrange, conduct or negotiate the existence of shore excursions. Some world ports have natural attractions that made them destinations in the first place; glaciers, rivers, falls, rain forests, antiquities, volcanoes to name a few. Ensenada has La Bufadora, a natural cliff-side blowhole, La Paz has the sea life and beauty of nearby islands, Loreto, I suppose, will have a whole new movie set mission village at San Javier. They are paving the road to the mission to accommodate the fleet of tour buses that will magically appear near the waterfront when the harbor is ready for the onslaught – deep dredged harbor for mooring, docking pier or deep water marina planned for what is now a special Marine Biosphere Reserve.

Shore excursions need to be close and quick, (less than five hours) attractive to young and old, a controlled, safe route and venue. Typical excursion fees amount to a large check once a month from some European or Scandinavian cruise line made out to “Crazy Cabo Eco Jeeps Corp” – let your imagination run as to where the money will be spent once the check is cashed.

To sum up, cruise ship companies and their passengers put A in the pockets of Port Captains, Government and private marina operators, water taxis and excursion operators, B in those of local vendors, C in those of townspeople.

Just a small percentage of total passengers buy the excursion packages. Most just walk around the marina areas taking in the sights and sounds, buying T-shirts and ashtrays – no food or booze because they all leave the big ships with full bellies from 24 hour binging. Thank God the tourists in the Big All Inclusive Resorts stay in the resorts; if they joined the cruise passengers in town there would be pedestrian gridlock; imagine a SRO auction where nobody bids or buys or a casino filled with rich people who are not gambling.

As the Sea of Cortez Project spends billions of dollars to attract yachtsmen from the U.S. and hundreds more cruise ships from all over the world, the hidden danger is that the big dollars will not trickle down to the people and the places the project has spawned; that the bulk of the tourist dollars will slide right through the ports of call on its way to the Mexican government and foreign specialty recreation companies.

Even if the project is unsuccessful in luring tens of thousands of U.S. yacht owners, if it doubles or triples the cruise ship numbers it will all add to the Americanization of Baja California. There are already seaside hamlets where Mexicans have been forced out by people and prices.

Even though the baby boomers have lost most of the equity in their homes (read retirement money) they might still have enough to come down here, crash through all the stumbling blocks, pay all the fees, suffer all the costs and have plenty left over for trips to Costco and pitchers of Margaritas made with Sauza Conmemorativo. In our search for a life in paradise we are replacing the people of the land. Soon it will be gringos buying from and selling to gringos; Pizza Huts and bagels, escalators, escrows and elevators, all business done in U.S. dollars, everybody speaking English.

There is an old adage:

“When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.”