Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: November 16, 2005

COZUMEL TOURISM OFFICIALS say the destination is on a fast track toward recovery in the aftermath of the destruction caused by Hurricane Wilma last month. According to Raul Marrufo, director of the Cozumel Tourism Promotion Board, with essential services like water and electricity restored to 90% of the island, officials have shifted their focus to preparing Cozumel for winter visitors. With that in mind, a number of airlines have either resumed service or announced start-up of flights for the winter season. Mexicana Airlines is currently operating daily flights to Cozumel from Mexico City, and Continental is flying three times a week from Houston. Meanwhile, American said it will, resume flying three times a week from Dallas on Dec. 16.

ALTHOUGH A NUMBER OF Cozumels hotels are still assessing damage and have not announced reopening dates, some have returned to business and others are poised to reopen for the winter as well. Among the hotels that have opened are the Vista del Mar, the Days Inn, the Flamingo and the Cozumel Resort. Resorts that have announced opening dates include the Casa del Mar (Dec. 15), El Cid la Ceiba (Nov. 15), Fiesta Americana (Feb. 1), Melia Cozumel (Dec. 23), and two Occidental properties, Occidental Allegro and Occidental Grand (both Jan. 31).

MEANWHILE, COZUMEL IS POISED to welcome back thousands of cruise passengers this week after extensive clean-up efforts following Hurricane Wilma. Cozumel officials will welcome the passengers back with a weeklong event dubbed Festival del Mar Caribe. Starting Nov. 14, 12 cruise ships were scheduled to return to Cozumel this week, anchoring offshore and tendering passengers to the island due to the extensive damage inflicted by Wilma on Cozumels piers. Festival del Mar Caribe, which tourism officials have organized, is a series of events ranging from music to food to street vendors in the town square designed to celebrate the cruise passengers return; the various ship lines also are expected to operate shore excursions. We have organized Festival del Mar Caribe to thank the returning visitors, as well as our cruise industry passengers, who have been extremely supportive of our recovery effort in the wake of the hurricane, said Cozumel Mayor Gustavo Ortega.

IN OTHER NEWS, officials from the Cozumel National Marine Park report that divers and conservationists are working to repair Cozumels damaged reefs. Officials from the park said much of the reef system along Cozumels coast was largely undamaged, although many sections were hard-hit by the storms three-day rampage across the region. Cozumel is a top destination for scuba diving. Shallow reefs, those located up to 35 feet below the ocean, were more heavily impacted, while reefs located at greater depths were reported to be in good condition by the National Marine Park. Underwater caverns like Chankanaab Cavern, F1 Cavern and Aerolito Cavern were unharmed and are open for diving. For updates on these and other developments, visit www.islacozumel.com.mx.

TRAVEL IMPRESSIONS announced an enhancement to its Aeromexico Vacations brand that caters to business travelers to Mexico. According to Travel Impressions, the new product, Aeromexico Business Inclusive, customizes and packages flights and accommodations for business travelers from any Aeromexico gateway city. In addition to hotels and flights, the service allows business travelers to reserve a rental car, or a private car with a bilingual driver. Bookings can be made by phone at (800) 327-4850 or on the Web at www.aeromexicobusinessinclusive.com.

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