Archive for April, 2009

Bajabuild

New developments are being built in La Paz on the Baja, but will the economy and tourism downturn slow sales? That's the big question.

Penny-pinching American tourists, a devalued peso and
endless stories of drug cartel shootouts are hammering Mexico’s tourism economy
at a time when new projects are searching for time-share and vacation home
buyers. Old tourist haunts are missing their regular customers.

 “What
a lot of Americans forget,” said Steve, the American owner of the Cabo Cabanas
he built six years ago in Loreto, “is you fly right over the troubles they’re
having in the north.”

He
laments that business was down this winter and spring, although a top rating in
the new Moon tourism book helped bring in new customers. But just a block away,
a recently redeveloped five-star historic hotel, La Mision, looks nearly empty,
with no one sipping margaritas around its enormous pool.

April, I’ve decided from years of
Baja trips, is great weather to escape south for a fishing trip and relaxing
getaway. I dodge the crowds (and prices) at Cabo San Lucas in favor of smaller
East Cape hotels and La Paz up the coast. Every year, I stare in amazement at
new developments spreading out from Cabo.

In recent years, several projects
broke ground around La Paz, a city visited more by Mexicans than gringos for
its uncrowded beaches, malecón restaurants and awesome sunsets. A new marina is
open, and three new golf courses are going up, including the Costa Baja Resort,
Gary Player’s first course design in Mexico.

The only question right now is
who’s going to buy? Sales offices were usually empty as I strolled by them in
downtown La Paz.

One Colorado couple I met had been
in La Paz for two months. “Sometimes we’re the only people in the restaurants
when we go out,” they said.

According to the Gringo Gazette, a
Cabo-based newspaper, “off the record” discussions with local Realtors say real
estate sales have ground to a halt, maybe down 75 percent from a year ago.

A big part of the disconnect is the
slumping peso, which tumbled about 40 percent against the dollar in the past
few months, as well as the closed credit windows in the U.S. When sales prices
of vacation properties are translated into pesos, sellers must pay the capital
gains tax at a much higher peso price. A million-dollar sale a year ago was
10.6 million pesos, but today, it’s about 15 million pesos, with the higher tax
rate eating into profits, if there are any. According to one Realtor, this is
kicking an already slumping real estate market in the teeth.

Despite the gloomy news, developers
are betting big on the Baja’s “desirability” factor. Entire hillsides outside
La Paz are marked with white paint, showing lots for new homes. Glossy
magazines still promote homes priced anywhere from $7 million in Cabo to
$300,000 and less in Los Barriles, Todos Santos and La Paz.

Near our fishing spot around Isla
Cerralvo, prolific for dorado, sea bass and larger sailfish and marlin in the
summer, there’s now a speed bump on the dirt road and signs promoting a project
with the theme “The dream is worth the drive.” From here, Mexican captains
launch their pangas, sturdy but basic fishing boats, from an area called Muerto
Bay in the Sea of Cortez.

But “muerto” or “death” in
translation didn’t seem to fit with the developer’s desired image. So now the
area has been renamed “Bay of Dreams,” or Bahia de los Sueños.

It’s a hot, dusty region where
agriculture, a salt mine  and
fishing were the only businesses. Today, workers scoot around on golf carts,
and water pipes are being laid for the GranSueño hotel, golf course and private
“casitas”. A new paved road now makes the area just an hour drive through the
desert and mountains from the East Cape, and an airstrip is ready for private
aircraft.

One thing for certain, Mexican
resorts have learned the fine art of enticing Web sites, and on the Baja, the
coastal mountain and deep blue ocean views are as scenic as anywhere. For
bargain hunters like myself, more pesos to the dollar make the Baja even more
affordable, and our Frontier flight was packed with Coloradans heading for the
sun and resorts.

Mexico is making a big investment
on repaving roads and rebuilding bridges, and our four-hour drive up to Ciudad
Constitución to Loreto on Highway 1 was completely safe and pleasant, passing
through just one checkpoint where the military police looked in our cooler and
waved us through.  Walking around
Loreto, police would stop traffic, smiling and waving me across. Somebody down
here put the word out – be nice to visitors.

There
is word that increased checkpoints, and possibly fingerprinting and digital photos,
are being put in for a “Southern Baja, Safe State,” keeping out any bad guys
fleeing from the north. Although an inconvenience for visitors traveling by car
or camper, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.

 

Comments (0)

Daverogers

Dave Rogers gets a plug for his new social media startup, Localbunny.com, at Downtown Boulder's breakfast meeting discusson on using social media.

A good pounding of wet spring snow couldn't keep more than 100 downtown Boulder businesspeople from learning more about how to tweet, blog, yelp and simply try to understand the rapidly growing world of social media. 

While it's so easy to think you're drowning in the flood — make that "deluge" — of social media sites, there's always something new to discover. A few of us had some slightly nervous laughs learning we're getting close to an emerging "silver surfer" crowd (60 years and older). The breakfast presentation at the Hotel Boulderado also included good info on Yelp, which came to the Denver area with its restaurant and retail reviewers just about a year ago.

Flashing a Powerpoint page showing literally hundreds of social media site logos, Amy Moynihan and Ashley Cohen of GoundFloor Media told the downtowners not to panic if they're new to the social media world. "Pick one or two, and just dip your toe into it," Moynihan said to one woman who asked why she shouldn't run away screaming from the whole social media invasion.

Facebook, Twitter and Yelp could be the top three mediums to get started on in the online conversations and marketing that include everything from blogs, wikis, podcasts, vlogs, Internet forums, virtual communities and micro-blogging (Twitter.)

If you're running a "brick and morter" retail location, Moynihan said, you absolutely need to be taking a look at Yelp, because probably there's already a "yelper" posting a review of your service or product online. The really active "yelpers," she said, get to be "elite yelpers." 

Fact is, many downtown Boulder businesses, including the Downtown Boulder organization and businesses such as Boulder Theater, Tee & Cakes, Boulder Baked, Laughing Goat Coffeehouse (my usual coffee hangout), the Dish, Spudbrothers (here is their Yelp page), and others (certainly the bars and breweries) have already made the plunge. Think the 20,000 students at CU are important to your Boulder business base? Then social media is a no-brainer. 

I'm a "fan" of Downtown Boulder's Facebook page, and heard about this latest Downtown Community Exchange via their Twitter. Downtown Boulder is actively promoting various "specials" or pointing to reviews — national and local — of restaurants and other businesses. New DBI Director Sean Maher told me the Dish, a gourmet sandwich shop, tweeted a secret "password" to followers, offering a one-day discount to whoever knew the word. About 40 customers came in with the tweet word of the day. 

GroundFloor Media pushed home the point that Facebook and other social media are not just for teens anymore. Demographics show the fastest-growing group using social media is 25 years and older, and that includes a whole bunch of us — let's say "somewhat older" adults (whew, found out I'm not yet a silver surfer after all) — who are starting to "surf" with the teen set. (The leading topic right now for the next Ignite Boulder, by the way, is "My mom just joined Facebook, now what?)

eMarketer, the morning presentation showed, is predicting the number of U.S baby boomers using the Internet at least once a month (you have to wonder who uses the Internet just once a month?) will jump by 5 million to almost 64 million in 2011.

As snow piled up outside the Boulderado, Dave Rogers, former publisher of the Onion in Boulder, announced he's just launched a new social media tool called Local Bunny. This just-born startup, unveiled recently at the Boulder Denver New Technology Meetup, allows businesses and organizations to not only get their specific business noticed, but to list specific dates and schedules. Local Bunny will then push that information out to social media like Facebook and Twitter, letting users search information not just by name, but by the "time" of a class or event. 

Dave told me he's just out of the gates with this one, but quickly showed me on his iPhone how he could search Twitter by typing "@localbunny yoga, boulder" and bring up a listing of Boulder yoga classes by time. Looking for a 9 a.m. class? There they are, or at least that's the idea.

Downtown Boulder will be planning some more smaller sessions for DBI businesses on social media, and here's my suggestion: Get a bigger room. I tried to get into one of the social media sessions at the World Affairs Conference, where a whole bunch of the "silver surfers" were grabbing all the seats, and people had to be turned away.

Hey, I've got to end this blog. While writing, a tweet came in showing downtown Boulder restaurant Bimbamboo is following me. I love their "small plates" menu … think Asian tapas. Now I'm following them, too.
Comments (0)


Cuevas Pintas rock art near Loreto
Originally uploaded by Jerry W. Lewis

While doing a little exploring in the desert on a recent trip to Loreto, Mexico in the Baja, we came across a small arroyo, lush with ferns, palms and other plants thriving from a small spring-fed creek.

It was the green foilage in the middle of the arid desert that attracted us, but we soon discovered this is also an area known as Cuevas Pintas, an archeological zone with some interesting ancient paintings on rock walls in a sheltered area near the stream.

Oasis3

Several paintings are scattered throughout the La Giganta Mountain Range, and these are the closest to Loreto, just about 15km to the west on the road that leads to Las Parras from Highway 1. The road is paved for part of the way now, and crews, as of April 2009, were busy working to complete the paving. We turned around when the paving ran out because of our small rental car, but the gravel road is passable.

You'll now see a sign posted on the side of the road for Cuevas Pintas, making it pretty easy to find. A small trail leads up the canyon and along several beautiful pools of water. There's only a small fence and information sign protecting these paintings, but the area was surprisingly clean given how accessible it is.

It's easy to see the appeal of the area to the ancient peoples of the Baja, and it's believed most of the paintings were probably done by shamen, possibly in some type of ceremony.

Cavepainting1

I haven't found a lot of information on this particular site, but did find a good site on petroglyphs and pictographs in the northern California Baja.

Photographing these paintings just makes me want to find some more next trip down to the Baja.

Oasis1

Categories : Travel
Comments (0)