Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: September 21, 2005

LESS TAXING: International visitors will benefit from tax-free shopping while vacationing in Mexico as of July 1, 2006 -- if Tourism Ministry-backed legislation passes in Mexico's Congress. Spearheaded by Secretary of Tourism Rodolfo Elizondo Torres, the measure would grant tourists a full refund of the 15% tax added to purchases if the buyer follows a few simple steps, such as obtaining an official receipt from vendors. Purchases would also have to be worth just over $100, at the current exchange rate. For more information, call (800) 929-4555.

OCCIDENTAL TOURIST: Occidental Hotels and Resorts, turning lemons into lemonade after Hurricane Emily pounded properties on Cozumel and the Riviera Maya this summer, undertook upgrades and renovations in the storm's wake. The lightly damaged Occidental Grand Xcaret, adjacent to Xcaret Park 45 minutes from Cancun, unveils a refurbished lobby, beach club, theater, pool and river-walk palapas on Oct. 10. The more seriously affected Allegro Playacar Resort, also on the Riviera Maya, will re-open Oct. 1 after repairs. Meanwhile, the nearby Royal Hideaway Playacar actually benefited from Emily, gaining a wider beach. Finally, the Allegro Cozumel, in the southwest of Cozumel, will re-open on Nov. 1 with 120 of 269 rooms refurbished, along with new palapa roofs and renovated corridors between villas. Call (877) 284-0935 or visit www.occidentalhotels.com.

BREATHE DEEP: The new Aroma spa opens at ProHotel International's Esencia resort on Mexico's Riviera Maya Nov. 15. According to spa director Cora Cejudo, treatments will be based on indigenous Maya Indian culture. Aroma will offer an array of face and body treatments; therapeutic baths; yoga and meditation classes; and temazcal (Mayan sauna) sessions. Esencia is a 50-acre boutique resort in Playa Xpu-Ha, 46 miles south of Cancun, with a two-mile beach, meso-American restaurant, and 29 suites and guest rooms with private gardens, solariums and plunge pools. Call (877) 528-3490 or (713) 528-3490, or visit www.hotelesencia.com.

BY ANY OTHER NAME: Reflecting a $10 million renovation and the addition of a 12,000-square-foot spa in January, the 426-room Hilton resort in Cancun has been renamed the Hilton Cancun Golf and Spa Resort.  The former name was Hilton Cancun Beach and Golf Resort. The Wellness Spa has eight treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge, two saunas, locker rooms, individual and couples treatment suites with climate control and a multi-channel music, a beauty salon and a spa boutique. For more, visit www.hilton.com.

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