Grupo Mall goes off the beaten path with Campeche resort

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Grupo Mall is bullish about tourism potential in Campeche. The Spain-based company is in the midst of building the Campeche Playa Golf, Marina & Spa Resort in southeastern Mexico. The first phase, currently under construction, is a $200 million project that will open in summer 2008.

The first phase will include 1,245 residences, a 150-slip marina, an 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and a 500-room hotel.

The beachfront hotel will have a spa, a gym, multiple swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurants and space for meetings and conventions.

The entire development is to be completed by 2010 in four phases. It will ultimately have about 3,000 residences, restaurants and a turtle sanctuary.

This is the company's first project in Mexico and was the result of a fortuitous visit, according to Julio Noval, president of Grupo Mall.

"A business associate invited us to Campeche, and from the very start we were taken by its exceptional beauty. Also what struck us were its cultural aspects -- the gastronomy, the archeological treasures and the folklore."

The company soon made plans to make its first major investment in the state of Campeche.

"Grupo Mall has always distinguished itself by its unique and singular concepts, and we've wanted to put this philosophy to use in Mexico," Noval said.

"We believe Campeche is the best place to do it. It has all the characteristics we've been looking for: sun, beaches, a calm sea, great cultural assets and every type of service."

The fact that Campeche is not yet as well known as other destinations was also a selling point, according to Noval.

Visitors will be able to arrive at the airport in the city of Campeche as well as those in Merida, Ciudad del Carmen and Cancun.

"The resort's excellent location will make it possible to visit incomparable sites, in a region filled with privileged places, with numerous Mayan ruins and great cultural wealth," Noval said.

Noval said he expected the complex to attract "a high percentage" of tourists from Spain, England and elsewhere in Europe. These travelers "will not only see Campeche as a place of rest but also as a place to live after retirement," he said.

"It's a similar philosophy for people from the U.S. and Canada, which are also two important markets for us. It's about people who want to spend their time in a quiet place that offers them a better climate and lifestyle but without having to give up the modern services and amenities."

Seeing green

The region's potential for ecotourism is an important aspect of the project, according to Noval.

"Grupo Mall has always supported environmental conservation and, by using sustainable means, minimizing the effect [of development] on ecosystems," he said.

"Campeche Playa Golf, Marina & Spa Resort is a project that is completely nature-friendly, which will contribute to ecological conservation of the fauna in the region, through a project designed and managed by specialists from various backgrounds who will be in charge of preserving the habitat.

"In fact," he added, "the entire project has been meticulously designed to pay utmost respect to the environment, which is reflected in the creation of green zones and a 'biological corridor,' which will aim to preserve the natural vegetation of the mangroves and jungle, and also the animal species that live in the area.

"From the resort, people will be able to admire thousands of birds in their natural habitat: pelicans, herons and an endless number of unique species."

This ecofriendly focus will also play out on the golf course, according to Noval. The facility won't use chemical maintenance products and will use recycled water from a nearby purification facility for irrigation.

Grupo Mall is also donating space for a new facility, the Carey Turtle Museum.

"It's an opportunity for those at the Campeche Playa Golf, Marina & Spa Resort to have the privilege to witness the arrival on our shores of the turtles as well as the protection of their nests, the collection of samples and the birth and liberation of the turtles," Noval said.

"We think these measures are the least we can do to help conserve this species, which is in danger of extinction, and we are very committed to the cause. The Yucatan has the North Atlantic's largest Carey turtle nesting areas, and it's the species most likely to disappear because of the extensive amount of illegal capture.

"We should all try to do something to improve this situation."

Other Grupo Mall projects

The Campeche project isn't the only one Grupo Mall currently has in the works in this hemisphere.

In Panama City, the company is developing what it claims will be the tallest residential skyscraper in the world: Los Faros de Panama, which will include three towers (one of which will rise 95 stories), 1,786 apartments, a hotel, a casino and a shopping center. The project is expected to be completed by 2010.

And there may be more to come from Grupo Mall in Mexico.

"Mexico has become a reference point in terms of beaches and tourism development, positioning itself as one of the most important destinations worldwide," said Noval. "At this time, we're concentrating on the Campeche project, but our intention is to continue investing in the country. In fact, we are considering a project in the state of Tamaulipas."

But for now, Noval said that all eyes in Mexico are on Campeche.

"Without a doubt, what's being witnessed here is the birth of a new, world-class tourist destination," he said.

For more info, visit www.campecheplaya.com or www.mall.es.

To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].

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