Article from Arizona Daily Star
by Mariana Alvarado
Hoping that tourists will combine a beach getaway with shopping excursions in Tucson, officials of the new airport in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, are negotiating with airlines to get air service to Arizona.
Mar de Cortes International Airport opened in November 2009 in the seaside community also known as Rocky Point. The airport opened initially for private and executive flights.
It is being expanded in phases, and this month it added commercial flights from Tijuana, Baja California; Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua; and Querétaro, in central Mexico.
Tourists from those cities often ask how far Tucson and Phoenix are from Rocky Point, said Fernando Antillón, the airport’s director. He said he is negotiating to add flights to and from the two Arizona cities but doesn’t yet have a timetable set.
Rocky Point “is going to become a shared tourism destination where visitors, for example, will be able to spend some days at the beach and then go and spend a few more days in Tucson, Phoenix or San Diego for shopping,” he said.
The airport is expected to be fully operational by 2012, and it’s already capable of handling all types of service and aircraft. The new commercial flights to Mexican destinations are being offered several times a week.
The airport was built by Operadora Aeroportuaria Golfo de Cortes S.E. de C.V. and is about 20 miles south of Puerto Peñasco and about 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
After a pilot program that set up 22 flights to and from Ciudad Juárez over this summer, the airport administration decided to make the route permanent.
“Juárez is a region that normally has had Puerto Peñasco as its beach, like Tucson and Phoenix do,” Antillón said. “The pilot program had great success. We moved about 2,000 passengers in those flights.”
The new flights are part of a broader tourism effort launched by the government of Sonora and the tourism industry to promote the state internationally.
In May, Sonora tourism officials traveled to New Mexico to promote the Sonoran beaches. Since then, both states have been promoting, mostly in Europe, tourism packages that include activities and places in New Mexico and Sonora.
“That way a tourist from Europe could go skiing one day in New Mexico and then enjoy the Sonoran beaches the next day,” said Javier Tapia Camou, director of the tourism department in Sonora.
Contact reporter Mariana Alvarado at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4597.