Harold Goakey took a break from a recent consulting job in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to visit a Realtor friend in the bustling tourist town.

“I was sitting in his office, chatting with the American people who came in wearing their shorts and flip-flops when I realized they all had the same questions,” said Goakey, an international travel business consultant. “They all wanted to know how they can safely hold title, find financing, insurance…and other sources and services in the area.”

He conducted some cursory research in other popular Mexican second-home destinations and heard the same message from other brokers and agents. All of them repeated the challenge–that they spent a considerable amount of every day explaining the basics of buying real estate in Mexico to U.S. and Canadian potential second-home buyers.

“I thought it would be a benefit to consumers and everyone in the real estate transaction–Realtors, lenders, developers, title companies–to have a place that answers many of their initial questions and points them in the right direction,” Goakey said.

Goakey and Larry Sivitz, an Internet marketing specialist, recently rolled out The Mexico Buyer’s Guide (www.mexicobuyersguide.com) that allows visitors to “subscribe” to free information about specific Mexico real estate markets. The list includes most of the usual spots plus a few others designated by the Federal Tourism Promotion Fund (FONATUR) Mexico’s chief development conduit for tourism.

For example, if you are interested in Puerto Vallarta, La Paz or Manzanillo, you can select those locations and receive private announcements of developments, listings and even e-postcards tailored just for your interests. It’s part of the new, personalized online programs that seek to fill a specified request rather than send visitors to a monolithic Web site with hundreds of pages to digest.

“A core part of our mission is to clear up the myths and misinformation about the Mexico marketplace and bring visitors the latest resources that are the most accurate and the most relevant,” Goakey said. “If you’re exploring a retirement, investment or vacation property in Mexico we can guide you through the process and help you make a more informed buying decision.”

Sivitz, who has managed Web marketing projects for a variety of companies including RealNetworks, T-Mobile and Washington Tourism, also writes a popular online search newsletter, www.SearchWrite.com.

“I was drawn into the project because of the way it meshes with search engines today,” Sivitz said. “Search sites like Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask have become the Internet’s ‘table of contents.’ Mexico Buyer’s Guide is able to attract visitors at the precise time they are interested in learning more about Mexico, and according to the resort locations and properties they are most interested in.”

FONATUR was formed in 1974 to boost foreign revenue, spread the country’s wealth more evenly and create jobs and raise the population’s standard of living by establishing large-scale tourism developments in specific areas of the country.

Over the past 30 years, FONATUR has created and actively promoted five Integrally Planned Resorts (IPRs) that have become the backbone of Mexico’s tourism industry. These resort destinations, which include Cancun, Ixtapa, Los Cabos, Loreto, and Huatulco, have proven themselves to be more successful than many of the country’s other destinations, garnering average hotel occupancy rates of approximately 65 percent and capturing approximately 55 percent of the country’s foreign revenue from tourism.

FONATUR now has plans for several new projects. The Costa Maya Integrally Planned Tourism Project (ITP) is moving forward on the jungle-filled coast south of Cancun, the Nayarit IPR is underway north of Puerto Vallarta, and the Mar de Cortes Project is under study on the upper west coast of the mainland and along the east side of the Baja Peninsula.

Goakey and Sivitz plan to include new areas on the site as they emerge. For example, one of more recent tourist destinations to be developed by FONATUR is Huatulco located in the state of Oaxaca on the Pacific Coast. The town is situated above nine bays on 22 miles of spectacular coast. Verdant jungles crawl out of the hills to mesh with white sand beaches and clear, protected coves.

Because Huatulco is a relatively new destination, most of the hotels and infrastructure are new as well. In an effort to make Huatulco more of an eco-friendly destination, the Mexican government has set aside 40,000 of the 52,000 acres in the area as an ecological reserve.

Goakey and Sivitz don’t plan on stopping in Mexico. Plans are now being discussed for similar informational sites in Central America, Western Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Tom Kelly’s new book, “Real Estate for Boomers and Beyond: Exploring the Costs, Choices and Changes for Your Next Move,” (Kaplan Publishing) is available in retail stores, on Amazon.com, and in local libraries. Tom can be reached at news@tomkelly.com.

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