Puerto Vallarta Fishing Industry Challenges, How this affects the Consumer and the Future fishing in PV
Before we get started, let me say there are a several issues facing Marina Vallarta that will effect any and all water sport companies like Fishing, Sailing, Touring etc. This is meant to be an informational article so people will know the present conditions as they exist in Marina Vallarta. With the new owners of Marina Vallarta comes changes, they´re unavoidable. With the upgreades and rebuilding of Marina Vallarta I am sure you can imagine there are those that are resisting, bringing legal action and a lot of talk….. I hope you don´t mind me posting this, but I think it´s important for people who are familiar with Marina Vallarta to understand what has happend, what is happening and what will happen as we move forward into summer.
I love Marina Vallarta, if you´ve never been there (here) the place is full of life and of course this is where the World Class Sportfishing Companies and crews are. As I walk around the Marina you can´t help but notice the ever vanishing Sportfishing boats from the slips. After more than thirty years Marina Vallarta has changed ownership and has naturally raised prices (slip cost) for boat owners, including the fishing boats already suffering from seven straight ¨depression¨ years. As a result fishing boats that were on the edge have left the industry or gone out of business. Boats that are still operational are searching for affordable options in La Cruz and Nuevo Vallarta Marinas, good luck. Some are biting the bullet, staying and paying. Raising slip cost are just one factor driving the cost of all water sports up, not just fishing boats.
One major factor which can´t be ignored are fuel prices which are going up an average of half a peso a day, or about the equivalent of thirty cents a gallon a month until further notice! Another Stab to the gut for Sportfishing Companies. Of course this is a recipe for disaster for everyone involved. I could come up with a laundry list of what drives the prices of Sportfishing up. The bottom line is World Class Sportfishing is not cheap or for the financially challenged. Guys like me find ways to do what we can to make a hobby pay off, but in the end we all succumb to market conditions. To expand on this just a little, the cost of fuel is causing some funny things based on bad perceptions potential by potential clients. For example, there are many people advertising four hour fishing trips for $180 usd. I sell the same duration for more than double that price. You may ask ¨Why¨? Well first of all we are not selling the same product. The unsuspecting, first time client will look only at price because he doesn´t know any better. If you assume that all the boats in Puerto Vallarta are required to have safety equipment, life preservers, radios, licenses, insurance, certified Captains and a business license you´d be normal. Included in that assumption is the thought process that if all the fishing boats and companies have to adhere to these laws or they can´t operate a business (legally), you´d be correct. The one flaw in these inexperienced and naive clients is that this is Mexico and corruption runs wild. My direct competition will tell you that they are cheaper than others, but in fact they are offering a low quality, slow, bad equipment, no insurance, no license product that is less than adequate if measuring others with the same scale! Basically what happens is this, they travel out slowly, saving fuel the main expense in fishing trips. This means at twelve knots, it will take you two hours to get to the Marietta Islands which are 26 miles out from Puerto Vallarta. Master Baiters heads out at twice that speed so this means you get at least two more hours of fishing and not two hours extra of travel time. If you measure the cost of fishing and not traveling, this means we are offering a different product with justified higher cost. These low priced, illegal boats will lead you to believe you are getting a superior product, until you see the boat and head out slowly while reputable companies boats fly past you. Now that would make me mad, but that hundred dollars you saved will look expensive in a short time leaving the marina! If insurance is important, I won´t put a person on a boat that is not insured for legal reasons. I would be responsible if you get injured legally in Mexico. That is because I am findable. The guy you booked this other slow boat with, he´s gone with the wind. I could write a book about this, but when you´re looking for a boat, Radios are important. Many boats that are illegal use cell phones for communication. Now I don´t know about you, but a boat that is in distress, sinking or has mechanical problems using a cell phone looking for help is criminal at best. What is the so called captain going to do, call his friends and have them come find you in some corner of the bay? What would he do if he was sinking, call his mother in law? Radios are also important so you can communicate with others in the area as to where they may have found fish? No maintenance on cheap boats, that´s why they´re disappearing, they´re breaking down and they´re not getting the necessary maintenance, so they sit in some slip or worse… So make sure you know the product, not just the price. What you don´t know can hurt you. Keep this in mind.
Ok, so we know where the market conditions are heading, you´d be a fool not to see that we (guys like me) need to come up with ways for people to go fishing and still not suck up all their ¨fun money¨. Lets face it, one fishing trip on a private, professionally equipped boat with a professionally salaried top quality Captain and crew, which is fully insured and licensed is going to eat a chunk of the family $$ earmarked for tours and souvenirs. Insured and Licensed boats are key here. Mainly because we´re ¨findable¨ we are held to a higher level of accountability and frankly we want to be.
Right now Marina Vallarta has changed hands after ten years of being in receivership. The new owners have come in and like a new broom is sweeping clean the dead wood slip occupants (lease holders) with expired leases. The new owners are using a monopoly mentality where you are the consumer of a limited product that is now controlled by a new regime. You might say, what does this mean to me, as a boat owner, business owner, I have to have slips for my boats or I´m not in business. After the new owners more than tripled slip rents, boats are leaving like rats from a sinking ship. On top of all that, the powers that be pissed off some of these Billionaire Mexican National types who have now thrown their considerable influence and army of attorneys into the mix. I would not want to be the on the receiving end of those law suits, no sir!
Now I am not the only one challenged with how to stay in business where the prime attractions are the boats. But boats are vacating Marina Vallarta as fast as they can move to less expensive Marinas. People come to the Marina to see the boats and have dinner, walk, enjoy the night life, etc. Not look at an open wound where boats used to be. It is driving property values south like a duck in winter! I could go on about this for sure.
The boat that can afford or barely afford the slip they are renting are going to be your only ¨obvious¨ options and of course expenses drive cost up. So expect fishing charters prices to go up. Add the increasing fuel cost daily and frankly holding cost down and trying to keep some level of profitability is turning out to be almost impossible. Cheap boats are always there to find. New local laws that enforce owners and brokers alike to prove insurance, Marticula (operating license), and boat registration with the local Port Authority to book fishing trips is going to decrease availability of fishing boats. Here at Master Baiter´s, we don´t see this as a huge issue since so much of our business is word of mouth and return business. The boats and brokers looking for ¨walk by¨ traffic to pounce on, on the boardwalk in Marina Vallarta are looking at hard times ahead.
So now we´re looking at fewer choices and higher prices as operational cost skyrocket. But the biggest issue the consumer will be looking at is how familiar faces in Marina Vallarta you used to rent from have disappeared. For many this will mean not being able to enjoy one of the greatest attractions Puerto Vallarta has to offer, which of course is the Bay of Banderas. If you have not been on the water here in PV while on vacation, you missed spectacular experiences like seeing a Giant Manta Rays (14 ft. tip to tip) launching themselves from the oceans in a display for the ladies. Whales doing the same thing. Dolphin by the thousands, Fish, Bait balls, Snorkeling, exploring, it´s just a magical experience.
So where do we go from here. Well, I know I have to do something. One thing I´ve been thinking about, is a ¨lay-away¨ fishing plan. Send money in, I´ll put it in an account for you, when you show up you´ll literally have money in the bank to cover your fishing trip, less pain than dropping a chunk of $$ on my counter! Another option is fishing parties for smaller boats on shorter durations. $100 usd per person for an eight hour trip would be affordable for most, you´d be one of four people, the difference being you´ll be targeting Sailfish amigo, not Bonito. Accepting PayPal is something we should have done ages ago, we´re working now… I am also am trying to come up with a way to match clients up to share boats as well. Not sure how this is going to work, but stay tuned for whatever ideas I can come up with. As far as creativity goes, there seems to be no original thought or thoughts on most subjects. My mixed up mind thinks that this will make fishing more affordable even as conditions start to work against the average working guy looking to enjoy Deep Sea Fishing at an affordable price. One thing for sure, if I don´t do something like this, nobody in Marina Vallarta or the area will…. Such is the goal, wish me luck.