Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: November 9, 2005

CANCUN is on the fast track to recovery following the devastation cause by Hurricane Wilma last month, officials from the Mexican tourist destination told reporters last week. Mexican President Vicente Fox has pledged that 80% of the regions resorts will be operational by Dec. 15, despite the estimated $2.6 billion in damage left behind by the storm. By Nov. 4, 5,200 of the affected regions hotel rooms were scheduled to be available, and approximately 16,000 rooms, or about 60% of Cancuns inventory, operational by Dec. 15, officials said last week. Cancun now has a total of 27,000 hotel rooms. Those properties with more extensive damage will take longer to reopen. Restoring beaches stripped of their white sand will be a major undertaking unto itself. Hotel owners plan to use machines that suck up sand in the ocean and spray it on the beach. The project is expected to cost $30 million and take up to three months.

MEANWHILE, the Mexico Tourism Board on Nov. 7 was set to launch a $10 million international tourism marketing push including TV and print ads in an effort to revive interest in Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres and the Mayan Riviera. Officials said the campaign represents one aspect of a series of initiatives that will be undertaken between now and Dec. 15, when the region will have 80% of its rooms operational, according Mexicos President Fox. In addition, the tourism board says Cancun last year hosted 2.3 million foreign tourists, about half of the 5 million people that visited the Mexican Caribbean.

BARCELO HOTELS & RESORTS, the hotel and travel company based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, said it acquired La Jolla de Mismaloya resort in Puerto Vallarta last month for $31 million. The 303-room resort was built in 1989 on the site of the sets used to film the 1964 movie The Night of the Iguana, starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardner. The acquisition brings to 12 the number of hotels and resorts that Barcelo operates in Mexico.

MEXICANA on Nov. 1 launched daily non-stop service between Miami and Mexico City. The flight is operated aboard an Airbus A319 with 12 seats in Executive Class and 108 coach seats. Mexicana said the new flight was created in part to meet the growing demand for business travel between the two cities. With the new Miami service, Mexicana now flies to 13 cities in the U.S.

UNITED applied for five new routes from Chicago and Los Angels to Mexico. The applications are for peak-season service and include two new routes between Chicago, including Ted service to Cancun 11 times a week and daily United service to Puerto Vallarta. In addition United applied for three new daily Ted routes between Los Angeles and Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. United said customers who book and fly a roundtrip flight through United.com by Dec. 31 will earn 1,000 bonus miles.

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