Special Report on Mexico: Staking a place on the tourist trail

KENNETH PRYSOR JONES probably has one of the best jobs in Mexico. Every weekend, the 47- year-old Welshman heads out either to Mexico's Pacific or Caribbean coast. As managing director of Grupo Situr, one of Mexico's most profitable tourism companies, Mr Prysor Jones likes to spend his weekends checking up on any one of the company's nine 'mega-developments'.

The resort under construction in Ixtapa on the Pacific coast, known as Marina Ixtapa, typifies Grupo Situr's approach to integrated tourist destinations. The project's centrepiece is a marina, surrounded by condominiums and an 18-hole golf course. Such resorts, complete with their own drinking water supply and roads, used to be built by the government. But in keeping with the rest of his reforms, President Carlos Salinas has turned such projects over to the private sector.

Grupo Situr, a subsidiary of Grupo Sidek, one of Mexico's most profitable companies, has most of its capital earmarked for building mega-developments.

Tourism is already Mexico's second most important source of foreign currency, after oil. The country received just over six million tourists last year, earning it dollars 3.78bn ( pounds 1.9bn) President Salinas wants to increase both figures by 20 per cent. To achieve this he ordered the construction of four super-highways, deregulated the airline industry and eased foreign investment rules. As well as boosting the country's infrastucture, the government is courting private investors and developers to help build a total of 15 mega-projects, which if completed would bring on stream another 50,000 hotel rooms and seven marinas.

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