Monterrey hits a growth spurt

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NEW YORK -- There's a lot happening in Monterrey, and Aeromexico's reinstatement of nonstop service from New York is just one sign of continued growth in Mexico's third-largest city, according to Elda Laura Cerda, executive director of the Monterrey Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Aeromexico resumed nonstop service from New York's Kennedy to Monterrey last month after spending several months out of the market following Sept. 11.

Anthony Batista, the airline's sales and distribution manager for the U.S., said the carrier gradually will be placing brand-new Boeing 737-700s on the route, which operates five days a week.

Business-minded

Monterrey, with a population of more than 3 million, is an important business destination in Mexico, thanks to its role as a hub for banking and as a center for the production of glass, beer, cement, steel and automobile parts.

Monterrey also is a growing destination for meetings and conventions, most notably the International Conference on Financing for Development, which attracted world leaders from 50 nations in March for a United Nations-hosted event.

The conference took place at Cintermex, a convention center with 98,000 square feet of event space and a 3,000-seat theater. An expansion of the facility, which will double its amount of exhibition space, will be completed in 2003.

Cintermex is located at the edge of Parque Fundidora (Foundry Park), a leisure and business facility built among the remains of a large foundry where, in 1903, steel was produced for the first time in Latin America.

More attractions are to be added at Parque Fundidora, including restaurants, bars and Arena Monterrey, a 17,000-person facility for sporting events and performing arts, which is slated to be complete in 2004.

Hotel offerings also have expanded, most recently with three properties opened by France-based Accor. The 238-room Novotel Monterrey Valle, in the city center, opened last month with eight meeting rooms, two bars, a restaurant and a swimming pool. Other new Accor properties include the 105-room Ibis Monterrey Valle, in the Valle Oriente district, and the 139-room Ibis Monterrey Aeropuerto, located near the airport.

At your leisure

One of the top draws around the Gran Plaza is Nuestra Senora de Monterrey, the Monterrey cathedral, built between 1603 and 1753. While meetings and corporate travel are big business here, the city also is casting itself as an increasingly attractive option for leisure visitors.

Parque Fundidora, for example, is home to art and photography exhibits, museums, workshops and theaters, as well as Plaza Sesamo -- the only Sesame Place amusement park in Mexico.

In the city center, attractions include the Barrio Antiguo, or Old Quarter, which is filled with 18th and 19th century buildings. This neighborhood hosts an annual Festival Cultural -- to take place this year from Nov. 14 to 24 -- which features live music, theater and other entertainment.

Downtown Monterrey also is home to the Gran Plaza (sometimes called the Macro Plaza), a large pedestrian corridor surrounded by a variety of attractions.

One of the top sites around the plaza is the Museo Marco (Museum of Contemporary Art), considered one of the best art museums in the country.

With more than 53,800 square feet in 14 exhibition halls, the Marco hosts both national and international art exhibitions, including sculpture, photography, video and drawings.

Other top draws around the plaza include Nuestra Senora de Monterrey -- the Monterrey cathedral, which was built between 1603 and 1753 -- the Palacio del Gobierno, built in 1908, and the Museo de Historia Mexicana (Mexican History Museum).

Looking for adventure

A growing part of the leisure mix in Monterrey is eco- and adventure-oriented, according to Cerda.

"We just hosted the fourth annual extreme sports competition," she said, referring to this month's four-day event, during which more than 80 athletes from Mexico and abroad participated in activities including mountain biking, rappelling, horseback riding and swimming.

Ecotourism and adventure travel attractions include the Grutas de Garcia (Garcia Grotto), which are massive caverns deep inside the mountains about 16 miles from Monterrey.

Part of the fun is the ride up the mountainside aboard a funicular railway; plans are for the railway to be upgraded in the near future.

Chipinque Park, which overlooks the city, offers great views as well as mountain biking, rock climbing, camping and hiking. It also is home to a nature reserve containing 120 species of birds and 22 species of mammals.

Additional attractions outside of town include Cola de Caballo, or Horse Tail Falls, a 75-foot waterfall less than 15 miles from the city.

Here, visitors can take a leisurely walk up the heavily wooded park area, which is dotted with picnic areas and places to relax.

The mountain ravine known as Huasteca Canyon is the place to go for rock climbing, with its high walls offering an exciting challenge. There also are picnic areas with barbecue pits, swimming pools and areas for hiking and camping.

For information, contact the Monterrey Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 554-5123 or on the Web at www.ocvmty.com.mx.

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