September 2008 Archives

September 1, 2008

California opens travel office in Korea

The California Travel and Tourism Commission will open an office in Seoul on to generate marketing and promotional campaigns to bring South Korea travelers to California. The commission hired AVIAREPS Marketing Garden to represent the California tourism industry in South Korea. South Korea is California’s fourth-largest overseas market, with 331,000 visitors, according to Caroline Beteta, CTTC chief executive officer.  “We expect that number to increase dramatically with the easing of visa restrictions and expected expansion in airlift.” South Korean travel in California generated $405 million in 2007, with an average leisure travel expenditure of $1,368 per visit. California now has overseas travel offices in the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Germany and Mexico.

Filed under South Korea, Travel and Tourism by

September 2, 2008

Mexico moving forward with massive port at Punta Colonet

Mexico has open the bidding process for the huge new port complex being planned for Punta Colonet – currently a village about 150 miles south of Tijuana. This project is being designed specifically to compete with California ports, and the economic impact could be huge. The project bid is being structured as “joint port-and-rail project” and we don’t know the route of that rail road yet – it could point straight toward Texas and bypass California completely. As reported in the Los Angelest Times, however, its future of this project is anything but ensured:

Mexico’s government is setting sail with the largest infrastructure project in the nation’s history, a $4-billion seaport that it hopes will one day rival those of Los Angeles and Long Beach. President Felipe Calderon is scheduled to travel to northern Baja California today to open bidding on a development that his administration hopes will catapult Mexico into a major player in North
American logistics.

Plans call for the construction of a massive port in the tiny coastal village of Punta Colonet, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, along with new rail lines to whisk Asian-made goods north to the United States. Mexico’s aim is to snatch some Pacific cargo traffic from Southern California’s ports, whose growth is constrained by urban development and environmental concerns.

Punta Colonet is expected to have a capacity of 2 million shipping containers annually when it opens in 2014, Mexico’s transportation secretariat told The Times But officials envision it ultimately handling five times that amount. Last year, the ports of L.A. and Long Beach handled 15.7 million containers combined. The massive development is to be privately funded, with the first phase estimated to cost $4 billion to $5 billion. The government is expected to award the 45-year concession in 2009. A number of major players are expected to vie for the project, including Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, the world’s second-richest man. Slim’s infrastructure company, known as Ideal, has teamed with Mexican mining and railroad giant Grupo Mexico and New Jersey-based terminal operator Ports America Group to make a run at the deal. “We’ve spent a lot of years working on this,” said Miguel Favela, head of Mexican operations for Ports America. “It’s going to make Mexico . . . much more competitive.”

About 30 million shipping containers crossed the Pacific Ocean last year, a flow that increased about 10% annually in the last decade. A weak U.S. economy has slowed the trade, but experts predict it will rebound. With shippers increasingly worried about congestion at L.A.-Long Beach, Punta Colonet has emerged as an attractive alternative. It’s close to the United States. It possesses a wide, natural harbor. And it’s in a lightly populated area offering room for expansion. When Calderon visits the dusty hamlet of about 2,500 people today, he is expected to talk about the big changes in store. The village will need extensive upgrades to its roads, housing, electrical grid and water supply. State and local officials are planning for a city of about 200,000 to spring up around the port.

The changes envisioned are alarming environmentalists, who worry about the potential destruction of the area’s plants and wildlife. But the farmers who scratch out a living there are thrilled at the prospect. “What we need is employment for our kids,” said Jesus Lara, representative of several peasant landowner groups that are eager to sell. “Everyone is excited. Having the president come to your town is like winning the Lotto.”

But whether Punta Colonet turns out to be lucrative for Mexico won’t be known for years. Competitors up and down the Pacific coast are in the midst of major upgrades. Panama has begun a $5.3-billion expansion of its landmark canal. Canada’s Prince Rupert port in British Columbia began speeding containers to the American heartland by rail last year and is planning a major expansion. Little of the cargo bound for Punta Colonet will stay in Mexico, making the port vulnerable to the whims of shippers, who can choose other routes to the U.S.  “Nothing is guaranteed,” said Asaf Ashar, research professor with the National Ports and Waterways Institute in Washington. “It’s a big risk.”

Building a seaport from scratch would be difficult enough. But the overland transportation piece is likely to make or break Punta Colonet. The deal is being structured as a joint port-and-rail project,
requiring terminal operators, railroads and construction companies to team up in consortia to win the bid. The railroad’s ultimate route and U.S. crossing points will depend on which railway operator is chosen and how it manages to link up with existing rail networks on both sides of the border.
Union Pacific Corp. of Omaha and Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway Co. control the U.S. side of the tracks at most of the key U.S.-Mexico border crossings. Striking a deal with one of those companies to get the cargo to the American side will be crucial, said Paul Bingham, managing director of the global trade and transportation practice for Global Insight, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm.

“They have the ability to essentially choke off that port,” Bingham said.  BNSF spokesman Patrick Hiatte said Wednesday that the company was “very interested” in the Punta Colonet project. He declined to say with whom the firm might collaborate to make a bid. Union Pacific could not be reached for comment. The company earlier had teamed with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings to make a run at the project, but that alliance dissolved last year.

Filed under California Ports, Freight and Logistics, Mexico by

September 19, 2008

Gap, Inc will open stores in Mexico, Egypt and Jordan

Gap Inc. is expanding internationally with new franchise agreements to open stores in Mexico, Egypt and Jordan, according to a report in San Francisco Business Times:

The new agreement brings to 21 the number of countries with approved Gap franchisees. The first franchisee was signed in January 2006, and over 100 franchised Gaps and Banana Republic stores are now open in 13 countries.

In Mexico, Gap (NYSE: GPS) will open stores within stores at a Mexican department store chain through a partnership with Distribuidora Liverpool. Gap products will become available in spring 2009.

Gap Inc. will also expand its Middle East presence with franchised Gap and Banana Republic stores in Egypt and Jordan. Fawaz Alhokair Group will open the first Gap stores in Egypt and Jordan by the end of the year, with Banana Republic stores following in 2009. Fawaz Alhokair also has franchised Gap and Banana Republic stores in Saudi Arabia.

Gap and Banana Republic franchise stores are now open in Bahrain, Greece, Indonesia, Korea, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Philippines, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. The company has also announced franchise agreements to open stores in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Russia over the next five years.

Filed under Egypt, Fashion and Apparel, Jordan, Mexico by

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