Visitor spending increases during first quarter By Jorge Sidron / July 16, 2003 Share 1 -- hat's up in Mexico? Spending, that's what. Mexico might have hosted fewer international visitors during the first three months of 2003 compared with the same period last year -- but those who came opened their wallets more. According to the Mexico Tourism Board, Mexico received 4.5 million tourists during the first quarter, 12.6% fewer than in first-quarter 2002. The tourism board attributed the drop to the war with Iraq and the uncertain U.S. economy.These visitors spent close to $2.6 billion during the quarter, or 6.8% more than in the same three months of 2002.Tourists spent a record $8.86 billion in Mexico last year, and officials expect spending to exceed $9 billion in 2003.• • •Palace Resorts wants it all. The property already bills its Aventura Spa Palace as the "largest spa resort in the Americas"; now it wants to be known as a place to host meetings.The Riviera Maya resort opened the Harmony Convention Center, which features more than 55,000 square feet of meetings space with a maximum capacity of 1,800 people.The Aventura Spa Palace features 1,266 rooms with private balconies and Jacuzzis.Guests who stay at a Palace Resorts property -- there are six in Cancun and the Riviera Maya -- can use the facilities of any other Palace property.For information or reservations, call (800) 635-1836; (800) 539-3313 for group sales.• • •Presidente InterContinental Hotels is in the news in Mexico.The company, which operates nine hotels and resorts in the country, said it will open a high-rise tower, spa and restaurant at the Presidente InterContinental Mexico City by year's end. The property recently completed renovations of all 659 rooms.Meanwhile, the Presidente InterContinental Puerto Vallarta will be marketed as a boutique hotel by the end of this year.The resort will feature a new lobby/reception area, a spa and a fitness center, a restaurant and a 24-hour cyber cafe; it also will have completed renovations to all of its rooms.The Presidente InterContinental Guadalajara will complete renovation of all 409 guest rooms by mid-2004. To date, 218 rooms have been renovated.• • •There's a new hotel firm in Pleasant Holidays' product line: the all-inclusive Riu Hotels chain, with properties in Cancun and Playacar.Prices for a four-night package at the Hotel Riu Cancun start at $755 per person, double, from Los Angeles, and $795 from San Francisco. Prices at the Hotel Riu Playacar start at $775 from Los Angeles and $815 from San Francisco.Prices include roundtrip air; airport transfers; meals, beverages and activities; hotel taxes; and surcharges.Pleasant's flights to the region are operated via ATA Airlines. Flights depart from Los Angeles and San Francisco on Wednesdays and Saturdays through Dec. 20, with an additional Sunday flight from Los Angeles during peak summer months.For information or reservations, call (800) 448-3333 or visit www.pleasantagent.com.