Que Pasa in Baja?

BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

Tourism update. Nicolas Saad, owner of the San Nicolas Hotel in Ensenada, has spoken out against the proposed merging of municipal tourism funds into one larger statewide fund. The state tourism secretary is promoting a central fund administered by the state, but the individual cities don’t want to part with the money raised in their city, as they want to make the decisions on how to spend it. Saad says that it has been proven that cities that are allowed to manage their own funds attract more tourists and he cited examples of highly successful tourist cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego.

He also protested having to give part of the city funds to the state tourism office and he went on to explain that right now the funds for promoting tourism are obtained by charging 3% tax on hotel income and that 70% of that amount stays in the city and 30% goes to the state tourism office even though the funds haven’t been merged yet. “Every city knows what is best to promote themselves and where, that’s why we need autonomy in the management of our funds” he said.

Tourism honcho drops numbers. Oscar Escobedo, head of the state tourism office, has said that in Ensenada alone around $220 million USD is being invested in the tourism industry. When he was asked about the criticism he has taken about not doing enough for tourism he said, “They can say what they want but tourism has increased in Baja, occupancy rates have increased, restaurants are selling more, and tour sales have increased 13%”.

Could be his efforts. Or could be the external factors that are bringing more people to Baja, like a better economy in the U.S. and a better perception of security here. Specifics on what Escobedo’s office has done for us would be helpful.

More cruises shippers! Three new cruise ships docked in the Ensenada port; the Jewel of the Seas and the Legend from the Sea owned by Royal Caribbean, and the Disney Wonder have all stopped in Ensenada in the last month. The first two had never docked in Ensenada before but the Disney Wonder used to stop by but dumped us in 2012. No grudges, we’ll take them back.

The tourism office is saying that in a good week around 18,000 people arrive on cruise ships to our city, and about 12,000 of those actually get off the ship, look around, and spend about $600,000 dollars. That comes to about 36 bucks per cruiser. They do get all their meals on the ship, so sometimes it’s hard to drag them into a restaurant, so $36 isn’t so bad.

Landslide in TJ. Around 20 houses were destroyed by a landslide in the Miramar neighborhood in Tijuana. Neighbors saw cracks in their walls just in time to bail out before the houses were sucked down the hill. Residents are blaming water leaks under their homes, but the water department is disputing that, saying no way, not our fault, our pipes are good to go, must be the recent rain or something. Another 21 houses are thought to be perched on the edge of the disaster zone and are most likely going to be condemned.

Memorial Day in Baja. This last holiday weekend brought good results, as tourism increased around 6% statewide compared to Memorial Day last year. On average we had a 71.7% occupancy rate in hotels with an estimated 1.4 million USD spent by tourists on lodging alone. The biggest increase was seen in Ensenada with 18% more than last year, which could be because the toll road is finally fixed.

The state tourism office is predicting this summer season is going to be a whopper. Well, we paraphrase. Hey, if you want us to translate this government stuff for you, you’re going to have to go with our jazzed up version of their boring announcements. Trust us, their version is way boring and you should be paying way more for this column in this paper than you are.

More roach coaches. Baja has seen a growing trend with food trucks, mirroring the trend in southern California. The government has just started to pay attention to these urban chuck wagons because there is no real regulation for them, as it’s not yet specified in any law yet.

“There are permits for some kinds of food selling trucks, like ice cream trucks, but they have to sell and move on, they can’t stay in one place; there is also another permit that allows trucks to stay in one place but these trucks have to measure less than nine feet long and three feet wide which most of the new trucks exceed” said Hans Appel, head of municipal regulations in Ensenada.

This ambiguity hasn’t stopped the food truck entrepreneurs who have opted to rent a small patch of vacant land, or to simply squat, pull up their truck, and toss out some tables and chairs.

 Um…..has anyone thought to call in the health department to inspect and handle the permits for these operations? No, we didn’t think so.

New discount card for Baja. The new edition of the discount card offered by the tourism office is out, so don’t forget to pick one up at your local office. This card gets you discounts for local restaurants, hotels, museums, pools, movie theaters, and a bunch of other cool stuff. If you’re in Rosarito, drop by the Oceana Plaza right by Don Pisto, because the tourism office is located inside the building on your right.  It has a sliding glass door that is almost always closed, so don’t walk through it and don’t try pushing or pulling it.  Just slide and walk in and someone will pop up. In Ensenada you can find the office on the main boulevard just one block before the CEARTE museum, right on the corner.

Free Lobster in Playas. Grab your buckets, because thousands of baby lobsters have washed up onto the beach in Playas de Tijuana. Wait, what? Ok, drop that bucket, we just got word that authorities are already there guarding the precious babies against people like you who would scoop them up. What were you thinking? You should be ashamed of yourself, there are laws against eating little baby lobsters.

Authorities were asking for help from the community to come out and pick them up and throw them back to the sea. Too late for that, as by the time you’re reading this, they’re all either dead or someone else rescued them. You have to be quicker on the uptake.

Rosarito Beach Hotel turns 90. The famous RB Hotel just turned 90 in May and celebrated with a gala dinner dance. Some of the partiers invited included Serge Dedina, Imperial Beach California mayor; Mary Casillas Salas from Chula Vista; Ron Morrison from National City, and of course our very own mayor Silvano Abarca from Rosarito. The head of the state tourism office, Oscar Escobedo, was also seen there chatting up Don Hugo Torres who has run the hotel for almost as long, having inherited it from his uncle. Under his watch the grande dame has aged well.

“We had to work very hard for five years starting in 2009 just to regain the trust of American tourists.” Said Sr. Torres during his speech.  Luckily, we have already regained about 50% of that tourism that was lost, but there is still a long way to go and we will not rest until the tourism sector recuperates fully.”

During his two terms as mayor of Rosarito Beach Torres worked very hard to clean up our image, and he remains a large part of the reason tourism has bounced back.