Is the Arizona Sonora Port Project A Fairy Tale?

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich have reached an agreement to promote Puerto Penasco as land-locked Arizona’s cruise port, according to state news sources. Both governors are counting on provisioning and supplying the cruise ships they hope will soon dock in Penasco.

Hector Platt Mazon, Sonora’s director of tourism, is cited as saying that Arizona produces 1.2 million cruise passengers a year, which would give the state an astonishing market penetration of more than 17 percent, by which count it should be the hottest cruise market not only in the United States but worldwide.

Puerto Penasco is said to be a three-hour drive from Phoenix, plus the time it takes to cross the border.

According to reports, Platt Mazon said that talks are underway with Carnival Cruise Line, and the Sonora government has optimistically been cited to say that cruise ships will likely begin docking in 2019. (Carnival has posted itineraries through April of 2019 with no mention of Penasco and has also invested in the expansion of its cruise terminal in Long Beach.)

While homeporting and calls would clearly benefit Sonora, it is not clear how Arizona would benefit with its citizens spending their money across the border and on the ship. But according to the governor cruise ships are expected to provision from Arizona. However, Sonora Governor Pavlovich is also quoted as saying that she expects her state to be a source of supplies. Both governors seem unaware of the cruise companies’ mostly global and regional sourcing strategies.

The port is described as a $60 million project, which started four years ago, with the Mexican government having committed to fund half of the project cost. The governors are hoping the federal government will also fund the rest.

Sources familiar with Sonora tourism said that state tourism has no funds to support a cruise port and that it would depend entirely on federal funding.

Neither the respective governors’ offices nor state tourism officials on both sides of the border responded to inquiries for comments and verification.

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