Sol Melia Launches Expansion Program

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ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Sol Melia Hotels unveiled plans to boost its presence in Mexico as part of an ambitious expansion program.

The plan, announced at the 23rd annual Tianguis Turistico trade show and marketplace, held here in April, calls for an investment of more than $500 million and encompasses three new resorts in Los Cabos, Ixtapa and the Cancun-Tulum corridor; a new business hotel in Mexico City; a new brand in Puerto Vallarta, and expansion and renovation programs at its existing properties. Melia Los Cabos

"Mexico represents major opportunities for Melia. There is tremendous growth potential and demand for Mexico," said Emmanuel Schreibmaier, vice president of sales and marketing for Sol Melia's Americas division. "Our strategy is clearly to expand and offer more products for both business and leisure markets."

The first installment under Sol Melia's expansion plan was the opening last month of Melia Los Cabos All Suite Beach & Golf Resort, the firm's third property in Los Cabos.

The 150-suite resort joins Melia Cabo Real, next door, and Melia San Lucas, located in Cabo San Lucas.

The new Los Cabos resort, which sits in the booming corridor region of the destination, mainly targets golfers and families, Schreibmaier said, adding that some of the property's biggest selling points are its easy access to the wealth of golf courses in the area and spacious suites, the smallest about 560 square feet in size.

The property aims to set itself apart by offering an upscale, boutique-oriented atmosphere, John Riba, director general of the property, said.

Nightly rates at the new Melia Los Cabos range from $205 to $600 during low season and from $245 to $670 during high season.

The next resort to open under Sol Melia's expansion program will be Melia Azul Ixtapa, the firm's first property in Ixtapa.

Plans call for a total of 720 guest rooms at the property, but the first phase of the project, which is scheduled to open at the end of this year, will contain 320 rooms.

"We believe strongly in Ixtapa as a future destination in Mexico," said Faustino Martinez, director of Mexico for Sol Melia's Americas division.

As the biggest problem in attracting visitors to Ixtapa has been lack of airlift, Schreibmaier said, Sol Melia was in discussions with a number of airlines during Tianguis, and plans are in place to boost service.

On that front, Alaska Airlines is among the carriers planning on augmenting service to Ixtapa. At Tianguis, Alaska Air negotiated a deal to increase its Los Angeles-Ixtapa service from four times a week to a daily schedule.

In the Cancun-Tulum corridor, Sol Melia recently broke ground on the 450-room Paradisus Tulum All-Inclusive Beach Resort. The property is located in Xca Chel, about 35 miles south of Cancun's airport, and is expected to open by 2000.

Although specific details are not yet available, Schreibmaier said the resort will take full advantage of its setting in an ecological zone in terms of design and offerings for guests.

Aside from the new resorts, Sol Melia is planning to enter the Mexico City market.

The company currently is in negotiations to add a hotel in Mexico City geared toward business travelers. The property, to be built on Avenida Reforma, will have approximately 600 rooms and is expected to open by 2000.

As part of its ambitious expansion plan, Sol Melia rebranded its Melia Puerto Vallarta property as an inclusive, the third Melia property in four years to adopt the concept.

Beyond new projects, Sol Melia turned an eye toward upholding its position in the marketplace by augmenting existing properties.

An aggressive refurbishment program includes a project at Melia Cancun, which, according to Schreibmaier, calls for "the addition of the largest facility for conventions and groups in the Caribbean." That project is expected to start in two months and be completed by the end of 1999.

Other properties slated for renovations and expansion are the Melia Turquesa in Cancun, and Melia Cabo Real and Melia San Lucas, both in Los Cabos.

Schreibmaier said the initiatives will enable Sol Melia to diversify its product line and capture its share of emerging markets. "We are committed to growing in Mexico and creating new markets," he said, citing golf and incentive segments as important priorities.

Schreibmaier said a main marketing goal of Sol Melia is to become one of the five major players worldwide in the incentive market.

Sol Melia operates eight properties in Mexico under the Melia, Paradisus and Sol brands. Locations include Los Cabos, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cozumel.

Sol Melia, Phone: (800) 33-MELIA

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