Carnival celebrations in Mazatlan will take place Feb. 12 to 17.
Carnival celebrations in Mazatlan will take place Feb. 12 to 17.

Returning visitors as well as first-timers will find new tourist offerings, attractions and events in Mazatlan in 2015.

The new touches begin at the Rafael Buelna Airport, whose recent $7.4 million renovation included a new facade, a redo of the corridors and check-in areas and the addition of specialty shops.

On the runway side, two new elevated walkways between the airline gate and aircraft were installed.

The modernization project was designed "to strengthen Mazatlan as one of the most important tourist destinations along Mexico's Pacific coast," according to Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte, the airport's operating authority.

Travelers have more options by air and by sea this winter, including Delta's new seasonal, nonstop service from Los Angeles and the expansion of Sun Country's seasonal service from Minneapolis from two flights per week to four.

"The 2013-2014 winter season saw an 18% increase in hotel occupancy by U.S. visitors, and 2014-2015 looks even more promising," said Gilberto Aviles, director of marketing and airline committees for the Mazatlan Hotel Association and director of sales and marketing for El Cid Resorts.

"With an estimated 40% increase in airline seats, we expect a 25% increase in U.S. visitors," Aviles said, adding that "cruise ship business looks even better." Recalling that calls fell off in 2011 due to growing reports of crime in the tourist areas, he said that "most major cruise lines have resumed calls into Mazatlan."

The current cruise season calls for 110 ship arrivals. On Dec. 10 alone, close to 10,000 passengers arrived on Holland America's Statendam, the Crown Princess and the Norwegian Star.

The port is booked for cruise arrivals until 2019, including Carnival, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Norwegian and Azamara Club Cruises. "We hope to close this current cruise season with the arrival of 85,000 passengers and to double that number" in 2015-16, Aviles said.

Hotel arrivals were expected to grow 21% in 2014 compared with 2013, due to the international airline seat increase, a jump in domestic flights, a large influx of meetings and convention business and the openings in late 2013 of the Mazatlan-Durango highway and the Baluarte Bridge, which opened in 2012 and is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world.

The city's Malecon boardwalk sports a new look, thanks to an investment of more than $2 million, which added 300 palm trees, restored walkway surfaces and new benches along its four-mile length from the Golden Zone to Paseo del Centenario, a winding street on a hill close to El Faro Lighthouse, built in 1571.

Mazatlan's Malecon serves as the stage for events such as the city's Carnival celebrations, set for Feb. 12 to 17; the Spring Cultural Festival, which runs from March through July; and the Spring Equinox Festival from March 21 to 23.

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