Hector Vasquez del Mercado, President of Puerto Peñasco's Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCV), reports that the city had a very successful Semana Santa (Holy Week) this year, seeing a 6% increase (in round numbers) for occupancy rates compared 2011, based on reports from hotels and other lodging providers. Though Holy Week draws most of its visitors from within Mexico, there was also a significant number of visitors from the USA who drove down to enjoy the festivities, mostly from Arizona and California.
According to Vasquez del Mercado, lodging providers last year reported 63% occupancy during the week and 80% on the busiest weekend, for a total of about 56,000 visitors. This year, the average weekly occupancy rate rose to 69% during the week and 86% for the weekend, for a total of 61,000 visitors. Based on estimates of US$35 per person per day, that works out to nearly US$2.2 million dollars, an important economic boost for Rocky Point.
If you add in the significant number of people who camp on the beach, stay with friends/family, own vacation homes in town or stay in Sonoyta and drive down for the day, the estimate rises to around 70,000 to 75,000 visitors, nearly double the city’s population.
The money was spread around, too, from the informal stands set up on street corners selling everything from used clothing, tables and chairs for the beach, coolers, etc., to taco stands, seafood vendors, souvenirs, aquas frescas and so on, as well as local bars and restaurants. The supermarkets were so packed that it was often difficult to find a parking space in their parking lots.
The Malecon was rocking all week, too, with some 50 bands having come in from as far away as Hermosillo and Mexicali to entertain the thousands of visitors and locals. They played a variety of music genres and of course there was much singing and dancing to the music between corridos. It is estimated that thousands of dollars per night were spent, with bands charging from 100 to 250 pesos per song.
All of the beaches were packed throughout the week, but perhaps the favorite this year was the new public beach, called Mi Playa, which was opened just in time for Holy Week. A stretch of beach between the Mirador and CetMar Aquarium, this area has been provided to the City under lease by the University of Sonora, which had used the land for an extension of the University’s Department of Scientific Research and Technology (DICTUS). The city has been working feverishly to get it open in time for Semana Santa.
Mi Playa currently offers palapas, outdoor grills, soccer goal posts, ample parking, portable restrooms, plenty of room for volleyball and beach-side showers for washing off sand. The city is still working on this beach, building more palapas, sports facilities, etc., and construction of its infrastructure will continue over the coming months. When finished, about the middle of next year, this will be the best developed public beach in all of Peñasco.
Overall, the visitor count to Puerto Peñasco has been rising in the last year or two, driven partly by a significant increase in national tourism. This is good news for the city, and its people are cautiously optimistic that the worst might be over.