Travel Weeklys Mexico E-letter: February 8, 2006

AFTER APPROVAL by Mexican environmental groups, a multimillion dollar project to restore Cancuns beaches after much of the sand was washed away by Hurricane Wilma officially kicked off last week. The beach restoration project, which was funded by the private sector and the federal government, will be a 24-7 endeavor using sand dredged from the sea floor not far from Cancuns coastline to create miles of artificial beach along the hardest-hit areas. Construction teams will pile sandbags along the beach to protect workers from the waves. The biodegradable bags will then be covered with new sand to create artificial dunes. The Mexico Tourism Board said the entire project, which was partly funded by a government investment of approximately $21 million, is expected to be completed by April 30. Hurricane Wilma slammed into Cancun on Oct. 21 as a Category 4 storm, killing four people and causing an estimated $1 billion in damage. Thousands of tourists were left stranded for days. As a result of the hurricane, tourism to Cancun is expected to be down 6.7% for 2005 compared with the previous year, when 3.5 million tourists visited Cancun, according to the Cancun CVB.

 

HOW MUCH PROGRESS has Cancun made since Wilma did its damage? According to Travelocity, enough for the destination to get a recommendation from 90% of customers who traveled to the Yucatan peninsula in the past three months. Travelocity said it solicited customer feedback via e-mail and used responses from 321 members for its results. Travelocity also said it sent company representatives to the region who report that most hotels and shops are open, and many attractions and activities are operating. Travelocity warns, however, that construction to bring all hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions back to normal is widely evident throughout Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya. The Yucatan is as safe to visit now as it was before the hurricane, but its a work in progress to varying degrees, with the Riviera Maya your best bet for peace and quiet, Travelocity said. The company is offering a number of discounts to the region to boost business and is posting updates on the Yucatans recovery efforts on www.travelocity.com/realmexico.

MEANWHILE, the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, which closed after Hurricane Wilma, will reopen on June 15 after a multimillion dollar repair and refurbishment project. Luis Marco, general manager of the 365-room resort, said the property will reopen with new facilities and expanded services, including a culinary center created in association with the Viking Range Co. that will offer cooking and wine classes for hotel customers and will host visiting chefs. The resort also added a tennis program operated by former pro and ESPN commentator Cliff Drysdale and upgraded and expanded its fitness center. The Ritz-Carlton Cancun bills itself as the worlds only oceanfront property to have garnered three AAA five-diamond ratings for the resort and two of its restaurants, Fantino and the Club Grill.

ANOTHER CANCUN PROPERTY on the mend from Hurricane Wilma is the Barcelo Tucancun Beach hotel, which will reopen on April 22. The resorts 315 rooms and villas are being refurbished, there will be a new reception area and lobby bar, two new restaurants were added and the swimming pool and deck area were rebuilt and expanded. The resort will also offer expanded spa services, baby-sitting and a beauty salon.  For additional information, visit www.barcelo.com.

JUST SOUTH OF CANCUN in the Riviera Maya, the Fairmont Mayakoba will open on April 16 after Hurricane Wilma delayed its planned opening last December. The 397-room property is part of the upscale Mayakoba Resort, a $2 billion, mixed-use development that includes the Fairmont Mayakoba, an 18-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman and managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Rosewood Resorts Laguna Kai (opening in 2007) and the Banyan Tree Mayakoba (opening in 2007), among other luxury properties.

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