Seeing a Bright Future for Baja
by Jim Pickell
It is no secret that Baja has experienced a turbulent past few years – particularly Baja California (the northern region). There was that pesky global economic downturn; an increase in violence related to drug trafficking; a media frenzy that created false perceptions of safety and travel in Baja, and then the resulting slowdown in tourism.
But that was then…
Today’s reality is that Baja tourism is on the rise. Visitors are flocking once again to our beloved peninsula, drawn by the physical beauty, the charm of its people, the many excursions, diversions and immersions one can experience here as nowhere else that make Baja such a magical destination for so many. In Baja’s northern state of Baja California and the southern state of Baja California Sur, 2013 looks to be a period of economic growth, fueled in large part by a growth in tourism.
In numbers reported at the end of 2012, tourism experienced a five percent increase over the previous year. Results for hotel occupancy, cruise passenger stops, and border crossings have all improved for the state (with Ensenada being the only port in Mexico to gain in ship docking numbers). The cities of Tijuana and Ensenada both saw the greatest increases in tourism in 2012. Guided by Ruben Reachi Lugo, Secretary of Tourism in Baja California Sur, Baja’s southern half also reported strong growth in visitors, with La Paz having a banner year with an approximate five percent uptick in tourism traffic and an estimated three million visitors through the international airport at San Jose del Cabo.
And it’s no wonder, with Baja possessing ‘industries’ that are shaping world tastes and gaining universal recognition. Gastronomy – the wines and foods of Baja – is rapidly becoming a major driver of tourism. With celebrities and chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Rick Bayless and Chuck Hughes raving about the cuisine of Tijuana, the tacos and spider crabs of Popotla and Rosarito, the cheeses of Ojos Negros, the wines of Ensenada’s Valle de Guadalupe and the high-end restaurants in Baja Sur, it is no wonder that foodies from far and near are converging.
Underscoring these positive trends was the calming of the border region. An article in the New York Times pointed to the fact that Tijuana is ‘safer than it has been in years’ and refers to a ‘resurgence’ in upscale restaurants, sophisticated night clubs and cultural activities. That kind of coverage is a welcome change from the negative media that dogged Baja for the last few years.
There are many reasons that Baja’s positive media coverage and overall popularity are surging. One contributing factor might be the establishment of the Baja Image Committee in 2011, comprised of US expatriates and leaders in Baja California’s tourism sector. The goal was for Americans and Mexicans to work hand-in-hand in ‘changing the dialog’ about Baja California. Baja.com has pledged to support that effort, working with the committee.
Under the leadership of Hugo Torres (former mayor of Rosarito and owner of the Rosarito Beach Hotel) and Baja California’s Secretary of Tourism, Juan Tintos Funcke, the committee seeks to proactively engage with the public and media, sharing the good news about Baja — safety, affordability, regional attractions and user-friendliness.
To that end, the Baja Image Committee and the tourism offices of Baja California and Baja California Sur remain focused on communicating with everyone, in any way, they can — through social and traditional media, public forums, Sister Cities programs and Rotary meetings, and so forth. Baja.com is very proud to be part of this campaign.
As I’ve said before, Baja is my passion – a passion I want to share with anyone and everyone who is willing to discover it! As 2013 begins, so does Baja’s future and we think it is shaping up to be a very bright one.
Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411