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Rocky Point Expects Surge Of Holiday Visitors Despite Border Travel Restrictions

Puerto Peñasco beaches
Gobierno de Puerto Peñasco
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handout | agency
Rocky Point reopened its beaches on Aug. 1, 2020. The city expects a huge influx of tourists over Labor Day weekend.

Restrictions on nonessential travel are still in place at the U.S.-Mexico border. But leaders in the Sonoran beach town Puerto Peñasco, known as Rocky Point, are counting on many Arizonans to continue ignoring those restrictions during Labor Day weekend.

Puerto Peñasco Mayor Ernesto Munro said tourism officials estimate 50,000 tourists, mostly from Arizona, have visited since the city  reopened its beaches on Aug. 1. And they expect the number of tourists to soar over the holiday weekend.

"We feel that this is going to be the best weekend since we reopened," he said. "And we hope it to be a very good weekend for our business people, for our community, but also for tourists.

Munro said Rocky Point, which shut down to any visitors in March, is still taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The city is several months into a detailed economic reactivation plan. On Sept. 1, the city entered phase seven of the plan, allowing additional businesses to open and extending the nightly curfew until midnight. After Labor Day weekend, Munro said Rocky Point will also stop random coronavirus testing at the entrance to the city. However, protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing and sanitation measures are still in place, he said.

Tourism is not considered essential travel according to pandemic border restrictions the United States and Mexico established in March and which are currently set to expire on Sept. 21. But Munro said Rocky Point depends on those Arizona visitors.

"The Mexican federal government may not deem essential for an Arizonan to come to Peñasco, but for Peñasco it is essential that we get tourism because it’s our main economic activity," he said.

He added that while the United States is also advising U.S. citizens not to travel without an essential reason, in practice Arizona visitors haven’t had issues crossing the border.

"What has happened in real terms is that we’ve been getting these visitors, and they are not having any issues at all to get back home," he said.

That’s because restrictions don’t bar U.S. citizens and permanent residents from entering the United States.

To dissuade would-be travelers without what the government deems a valid reason to travel, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was shifting resources to prioritize essential crossings, leading to long weekend waits at some U.S. ports of entry in recent weeks.

Kendal Blust, an Arizona native, reports from KJZZ’s bureau in Hermosillo, Sonora, focusing on business and economic relationships between Arizona and northern Mexico.Prior to joining KJZZ, Kendal worked at the Nogales International, reporting on border and immigration issues, local government, education and business. While working on her master’s degree at University of Arizona School of Journalism, she did stints with the Arizona Daily Star and the Tico Times in Costa Rica, and completed a thesis project about women art activists in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands.In her pre-journalist life, Kendal was a teacher, first helping Spanish high school students learn English, then heading to Tucson to teach fourth grade.When she’s not in the newsroom, Kendal enjoys getting outside for a hike or a swim, catching a good movie, hanging out with family and friends, and eating great food.