January 4, 2015

Java Talking with Lupe about Mexican Airlines in Harlingen

Aeromar jet

Last week’s conversation with my husband Lupe Gonzales (Mr. Pro Harlingen) revolved around the promotion and marketing of Harlingen’s services and attractions. The story generated a good amount of interest. We are happy to share our thoughts with other citizens and hope they share theirs with us as well.  Today we continue on the subject of luring visitors to spend money here.

Do you agree with those who think that bringing a Mexican airline to Harlingen is a good idea?

MPH – Yes it is a good idea, but I don’t believe Harlingen can support it.

NTG- Why not?

MPH – Because most Mexican nationals have the opportunity to fly directly to San Antonio and Houston to shop from their airports in Mexico. How can we compete with those destinations?  Harlingen could be a destination for private aircrafts though, but I do not believe we would have enough passengers flying to and from Mexico in commercial airlines.

NTG – It is true and it is always good to be careful with what you wish for. If let’s say an airline flies to Harlingen from Mexico City, Harlingen would have to compete with major cities in Texas for passengers. Cities that are already being served by Mexican airlines. There is a good chance that airline ticket costs to all destinations would be competitive, so why would people choose Harlingen over the others?

Lupe and I during a recent trip to San Luis Potosi with Aeromar.

Lupe and I during a recent trip to San Luis Potosi with Aeromar.

MPH – To travel to the Island or to visit relatives. You and I know for a fact that Valley International Airport staff works hard to attract these airlines. But when it comes to the final decision those airlines choose another Valley city especially McAllen because they want to offer a well-known destination that sells, and Mexican nationals know about McAllen.

I agree we are not in the same league but it has more to do with what those cities have to offer. McAllen has a small Mexican airline that serves Mexico City and San Luis Potosi. Most visitors fly for business and shopping since there is enough retail business there to compete with other shopping destinations. They also come to visit family who have relocated to the area and South Padre Island.

NTG- Some even come to our Marine Military Academy where a good number of young men from Mexico study. Why not just take advantage that McAllen can afford to spend a good amount of money promoting themselves and the Valley in Mexico, and find a way to bring those visitors to Harlingen even if for an afternoon. Most visitors to McAllen also visit other cities in the Valley – like Mercedes and the Island – it’s just a matter of figuring out what can attract them here. Tourism is regional.

Just to give an example of advertising potential, the 2014 first quarter hotel/ motel tax report shows Harlingen generated approximately $235,645.00 for this period, and McAllen generated approximately $971,998.00 for the same period. On average, Valley hotels collect 13.5% tax per room / per night, of which 6% go to the state.

Harlingen does not even have an airport named after itself. We have missed an important branding opportunity in my humble opinion and I know many disagree.  If the Valley had only one airport I would understand.  During an interview I conducted with the Secretary of Tourism of San Luis Potosi and one of Aeromar’s top officials they both stated finding McAllen to be a good commercial partner. So considering all of this, do you think Harlingen should   provide financial incentives to lure Mexican airlines? There would be additional costs related to a complete remodel of the international gate, plus providing additional immigration and customs officials plus the cost of strong advertising campaigns. Is it worth the expense if most passengers do not stay and shop here? Would flying here keep them here?

MPH – Other cities have given financial incentives to lure a Mexican airline to service their airport and it appears that once the incentive runs out they quit. My guess is that the passenger load is not enough to make it cost effective. Both Brownsville and McAllen have experienced this. I have to assume that the airport administration and their advisory board have given this careful consideration.

NTG – I wrote an article a few months ago about the possibility of connecting flights to Cancun with Sun Country Airlines which already serves Harlingen AND Cancun. That could be a good start. What do you think?

MPH – (Laughing out loud) Those flights are probably full out of Minnesota, and no reason to stop in Harlingen. But, I agree that it would be great if that could happen. Those resorts in Cancun offer some very tempting packages.

Can we quit now? I’m trying to watch a great golf tournament.

NTG – OK   – Whatever

Until next time.

UPDATE: Aeromar Airline service from McAllen to San Luis Potosi has been cancelled. 01/05/2015

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About the Author

Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts,nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most important, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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