San Carlos, Sonora, is preparing for its renaissance.
Commercial air service is set to begin next month between Tucson and the beach town in northern Mexico for the first time in 20 years.
Nearly 1,000 people have made travel plans for the 50-minute flights that will operate four days a week, said Frank Jackson, owner of Paradise Sands, which is coordinating the air service with carrier Caljet Elite Airways, based in Carlsbad, California.
That’s good news for San Carlos hotel and restaurant owners, Sea of Cortez cruise operators, diving shops and fishing captains, all of whom are eagerly awaiting the influx of new visitors.
Paradise Sands staff coordinated with area business owners to put together all-inclusive packages that cover airfare, transportation, lodging, meals, beverages and entertainment, beginning at $875 per person.
“We want this to be more than just air service,” Jackson said.
He said the flights will be pet-friendly, with information on how to export and import a pet provided when making a reservation.
Karina Gallegos, coordinator for Paradise Hospitality, said all-inclusive packages have not been available in northern Mexico before, which is fueling the anticipation.
Through a new ambassador program, residents of San Carlos get rewards for encouraging friends and family to visit.
Bobby and Leslie Sahlen moved to San Carlos 14 years ago from Henderson, Nevada.
They look forward to having their children and grandchildren visit them, now that the six-hour drive from Arizona is no longer a roadblock.
A record producer, Leslie said the flights will allow her to book artists for seaside performances and to draw music lovers.
“As an ambassador, my role is to let everybody know you can be here in 55 minutes,” she said of the flight from Tucson. “There’s so much to do here, so if you’re bored in San Carlos, you’re not paying attention.”
She said speaking Spanish is not a necessity, as many residents are from the United States and Canada.
“It’s a very friendly community,” Leslie said. “Nobody is a stranger.”
San Carlos has been featured on House Hunters International several times, and Leslie said she has met people who have visited because of the HGTV show and have bought a home. Others, she said, have told her they “just came down for the weekend 25 years ago.”
The program has about 300 ambassadors from more than 50 cities and 20 states or provinces in the U.S. and Canada.
Horacio Valenzuela Pereyra, director of the airport in Guaymas, which neighbors San Carlos, said he expects the new flights to create business opportunities for both Sonora and Arizona.
With large manufacturing plants in the Guaymas area, the flights should be used by companies already doing business in the area or those looking to expand their operations in Mexico.
Tucson-based The Offshore Group has clients such as Paradigm Precision, Parker Aerospace and Rolls-Royce at its manufacturing parks in Guaymas and neighboring Empalme. Offshore employs more than 14,000 people at those plants, making it the largest private employer in the state of Sonora.
Tucson International Airport lost its last international flight in 2008. Earlier this month, officials from both states announced that Mexican airline AeroMar will begin nonstop flights between Tucson and Hermosillo, Sonora, in October.
That flight will continue to Mazatlán and Guadalajara.
The Caljet flights to Guaymas/San Carlos will be on a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 jet four times a week between Tucson and Guaymas, as well as between Phoenix and Guaymas. The flight will originate in Phoenix and fly to Guaymas, then from Guaymas to Tucson and back, and then leave Guaymas and terminate in Phoenix.