Monday, January 17, 2011

Internet Access - and a visit to the future of Loreto!


My apologies to you all! I understand that for some of you, reading my new postings on Sundays has become somewhat of a ritual – and, of course, this past weekend there was no posting. Let me set the record straight, we lost our regular internet connection in Loreto Bay sometime late on Saturday and as I post this Monday afternoon (from a temporary source) it is still out until further notice.

While there have been brief interruptions in the past, we have never had this long a period without our connection to the outside world before. The immediate impact for me was not being able to post the following blog on Sunday morning, an obligation I take seriously and felt guilty about – much like a snow day that brought an unexpected holiday from school when I was growing up.

Being cut off also meant that there was no email or Skype access and not only could I not communicate with friends or family – but obviously I couldn’t tell them why I couldn’t contact them. As a result, after I reconciled my guilt, I enjoyed a relaxing day, reading in the sun on my terrace, going for a bike ride and doing things that I often don’t take the time for normally.

The events of the past weekend provide a glimpse of what life here would be like in a World without a Wide Web – and it would be a very different place indeed! In fact, I seriously doubt if many of the ex-pat population that have settled here in the past decade would have considered life in this remote and isolated place without easy and constant access to all the related services we have come to expect. You don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it – so I hope you all enjoy reading this and stop and think about how the internet affects us all!

Last week I mentioned that I had seen the new Villa del Palmar development in Ensenada Blanca while I was on the boat trip and I included a small picture taken from a distance. This week I was invited on a tour of the property so I am excited to bring you a much closer view of this impressive project.

The Villa Group is one of the most prestigious resort developers in Mexico with eight other properties established in other destinations, including three in Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of the Baja. They began work on their latest development near Loreto several years ago and now they are very close to completion of the first phase of this huge project.

The location of the Villa del Palmar resort is on a picturesque bay called Ensenada Blanca which is about 20 kilometres south of Loreto Bay on the main highway. Currently the access from the highway is by a well graded road that runs through an arroyo for several more kilometres and then passes through the small hamlet of Ligui before reaching the construction entrance gate to the project. However work is underway on a new paved road that will connect directly from the highway to the Guest main entrance.

The first phase of the project consists of three 7 story buildings with a total of 167 suites ranging in size from one to four bedrooms. These buildings are on two sides of a large pool courtyard area where most of the finishing work is currently underway in preparation for the opening of the resort early this year.

This pool area will be spectacular with 6 separate pools which, when viewed from above take the form of a sea turtle – appropriately enough, as these turtles are one of the protected species that calls the Marine Park surrounding Loreto home. Surrounding this pool area and covering several acres there will be terraced lounging areas, many sunken to provide shelter on the occasional windy days.

Eventually the project will have 5 restaurants providing a variety of cuisines and dining styles. A Rees Jones designed Golf Course will begin construction soon. The 30,000 sq. ft. Spa building is now under construction and will provide a wide range of services to the Guests on completion. In addition to this there will be a fitness facility, water sports from the adjacent beach, and all of the other amenities that are associated with a first class resort property.

Villa del Palmar will operate as a vacation resort and offer memberships in their time-share ownership program and eventually, in later phases of the project, there will also be full ownership Villas located on the Golf Course. In short, this is major project with long term impacts on Loreto and the surrounding areas, including Loreto Bay, where I live and work.

When the marketing campaign for the resort gets underway it will draw attention and interest in Loreto as a destination, as demonstrated by the New York Times article I mentioned last week that touted Loreto as #8 on a list of 41 places to visit in 2011. Increased interest will lead to demand, which in turn will eventually lead to increased airline passenger capacity on flights to and from Loreto.

Since the completion of the new airport over a year ago there has only been one flight from the US (LAX) into Loreto by Alaska Airlines. This Fall that flight went from 4 days a week to 7 days a week, a good sign, and we are optimistic that Alaska will increase the size of the planes they use on this route, but we are also looking forward to more airlines offering flights from more locations in the not too distant future. But the importance of opening a major resort like Villa del Palmar, backed by a company like the Villa Group, with a long and successful history in the resort vacation and time-share business, cannot be overestimated!  By creating the demand they will play a major role in the eventual growth and development of Loreto and the surrounding area.

When you add the impact of the yet-to-be-announced marketing plans of Homex and their continuation of the residential development adjacent to Loreto Bay, and the launching this spring of a major advertising campaign by the Mexican Government promoting the Baja in general, it is clear that the momentum is shifting to a positive direction and Loreto will benefit in many ways with increased business opportunities leading to improved employment for many townspeople.

It would be naive to think that this progress will not come at a cost – I can imagine someday looking back on the past couple of “quiet” years and remember them as “the good old days” when you could almost count on running into someone you know, just about anywhere you go! But I also am conscious of the fact that we ex-pats are guests here – and there are many Mexicans who have the right to call this place home, and who want the progress and development that will bring good jobs and opportunities here. This in turn will mean that they can stay in this beautiful place and raise their families and their offspring will not have to leave to find those opportunities elsewhere.

So after visiting the nearly completed resort, which will be the largest such development in Loreto’s history, and seeing beyond the construction and fancy rooms and amenities and looking into the future to a growing and thriving community, fuelled in part by this development, that is an exciting week to be Living Loreto!