Mazatlan: The planes and ships are back – all full of tourists

Story and photos by Bob Schulman

Visitors are welcome to party with local Mazatlecos.

Resort hotels line the beaches of Mazatlan’s ‘Golden Zone.’MAZATLAN, Mexico -- You see a lot of smiles around this resort on the Mexican Riviera these days. And not just on the faces of the half-million-plus tourists expected to have Mazatlan stamped on their passports this year. Local hoteliers are happy, too. Ditto for restaurant owners, airline and cruise execs, shopkeepers, people who rent boats and cars, and everyone else in the tourism business around this Pacific port.

That’s because the millions and millions of dollars spent by Mazatlan to position the resort as a place where it’s clean, safe and loaded with things to do and see, paid off. On the bottom line, Mazatlan hosted more than 300,000 guests from the U.S. and Canada in 2013 – its best year since 2007. And the way things are going so far this year, the visitor count from north of the border should jump by a whopping 85 percent over 2013.

“We are extremely pleased with the positive developments that have transformed Mazatlan over the past several years, and even more excited about the prospect of future growth in our key industries, including tourism,” said the region’s Secretary of Tourism Frank Cordova.

Among huge investments to upgrade the Mazatlan tourism product, the city face-lifted large areas of its 180-block historic district, dramatically improved visitor security, remodeled its airport and dock facilities, introduced a slate of arts and other cultural programs, and built a world-class convention center and a new marina. What’s more, in a few months the city will debut a new, 17-mile turnpike providing a direct route from the Mazatlan airport to the main resort area – shaving the transit time by some 40 minutes.

Plaza Machado is the crown jewel of the Historic District.

The infrastructure and related investments did not go unnoticed by the air and cruise lines serving Mexico. Delta Air Lines, for example, will introduce nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Mazatlan this winter, and Sun Country Airlines will double the number of its flights to the resort from Minneapolis/St. Paul.

For seagoing visitors, Carnival Cruise Lines recently announced it will resume service to Mazatlan with year-round cruises from Los Angeles starting next April. Additionally, the colors of Princess Cruises will again fly at Mazatlan next year, joining those of three current lines (Holland America, Norwegian and Azamara Club) that resumed service in 2013.

Officials say Mazatlan’s “MICE” (short for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) business is booming. With 667 MICE functions anticipated for 2014, the city expects to show a 37 percent gain in events this year over 2013 and a jump of nearly 57 percent from 2012.

Mazatlan currently has 58 hotels with a total of 11,000 rooms (a little over a third the capacity of Cancun). A number of new properties are on the drawing board at locations in the historic district, on the marina and along Mazatlan’s golden beaches.

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