Puerto Penasco, Mexico, or Rocky Point as it translates to in English, is a popular getaway for Arizonans.
This beautiful sea side resort is sometimes referred to as "Tucson's beach" because of its popularity and proximity; It's about a 4 to 4 1/2 hour drive.
Imagine, however, if you could fly, spending more time in the warm, welcoming waters of the Sea of Cortez. Right now there are private companies that offer chartered flights but those tend to be more than most of us want to spend.
There's now a big push to get direct commercial flights from Tucson to not only Rocky Point, but other cities within the State of Sonora, Mexico.
Mary Davis, Senior Director of Business Development & Marketing for Tucson International Airport, says the effort to get those flights to Sonoran cities is in full swing, "a little more than a year ago, TAA's (Tucson Airport Authority) board of directors approved an airline incentive program to allow TAA to be competitive in negotiating air service. Not long after, we were approached by the airport director in Puerto Penasco about ways to work together to attract an airline or airlines to reinstate air service to Mexico, which had last flown in 2008 with AeroMexico."
Davis says AeroMexico canceled those flights due to high fuel costs, the recession, and higher fares not attracting enough passengers to keep the flights going. She says TAA has been working to find a carrier since then to resume flights.
It takes a lot of work to get the flights up and running again and TAA representatives have been working with government officials from Rocky Point, the State of Sonora, the tourism industry, and businesses including airline companies.
Davis says, as with any new program, the importance of market data cannot be overstated, "while TAA had historical travel data through the Department of Transportation, we cannot share those numbers with foreign carriers, so we were limited in the historical picture we could present. Add to that the dramatic change in both the business and tourism markets between Sonora and Southern Arizona-and that landscape continues to change-we felt it was important to develop a way to gather this data."
In an effort to gather that much needed data, TAA is conducting a survey to see what kind of demand there is for flights to cities in Sonora, "last summer, TAA worked with a local business air service roundtable led by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce to develop a business travel demand survey for domestic markets. Building on this idea, we met with Chris Baker of Strongpoint Market Research who offered to work with TAA to develop a survey that would help us identify travel demand between Sonora and Tucson."
Davis noted that Strongpoint is doing the survey as a community service to aid in air service development. The survey focuses specifically on business travel demand. Davis says, "we are also preparing a similar survey that will seek to assess leisure and tourism travel between the two regions. Air service to Mexico has been strongly expressed as a need for economic and job growth, tourism and leisure travel support"
Davis says TAA will use the information from the survey to discuss strategy and new route proposals as they meet with airline partners in on-going discussions, "based on historical performance as well as other data gathered (SALEO did a survey about 2 years ago), top destinations include Guaymas, Hermosillo, Obregon and Rocky Point, with others making a showing of a small percentage."
The idea of direct flights benefits both sides of the border says Russ Black with Peñasco Recreation Company, "Mexicans all over Sonora flock to Tucson to shop all the time and especially just before Christmas. If they had a flight from Sonoran cities into Tucson it would encourage many more to go to Tucson to do their big shopping."
Black says the advantages are endless, "I can see fishermen groups, golf groups, and families taking advantage of a one hour flight versus a four hour drive. Investors, lookie lews, everyone that wants to visit but don't like to drive will benefit. This plan is all good for everyone involved, we have a beautiful International Airport, brand new and very seldom used however it has a full time staff of 24 waiting for new clients to pass through."
If you want to take the survey that focuses on business travel demand click here. You're also encouraged to share the link with others for their input. Another survey that will focus on leisure travel should be ready to go by the end of this week.
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