Tianguis spotlights country's tourism moves

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ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Mexico's tourism industry was in focus at Tianguis Turistico, the country's largest travel trade convention, held here.

Dozens of suppliers were represented at the event, which was sponsored by the Mexican government, the Mexico Tourism Board and private tourism concerns.

The following is a roundup of news from the show:

• The Mexican Congress announced it will eliminate all sales tax on international conventions held in Mexico, effective January 2004.

The new law reforms the Value Added Tax (VAT) law imposing a 15% sales tax on international meetings and conventions held in the country.

The Tianguis Turistico conference took place in Acapulco. Above, the city's Zocalo, or town square. • The Mexico Tourism Board and National Tourism Business Council (known by the Spanish acronym CNET) launched Tianguis Online, the first online platform for buyers and sellers in Mexico's tourism industry.

The online forum will be of particular use to small and midsize businesses that ordinarily do not have access to such technology, according to a spokesman.

The multilingual site will feature information about Tianguis exhibitors and participants as well as a chat function and an internal messaging system that will inform registrants about the latest news and developments.

"Tianguis Online completes in a real way the Acapulco Tianguis fair," said Maria Elena Mancha, general director of the Mexico Tourism Board, "so that those not in attendance during the event will be present 24/7, 365 days a year."

The multilingual site will be accessible through www.visitmexico.com in May.

• Additional upgrades are under way to the city infrastructure in Puerto Vallarta, according to Santiago Gutierrez, who was named president of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board in February.

Among recent changes are new handicapped-accessible ramps in many of the public sidewalks and a new pedestrian bridge over the Rio Cuale, which will expand opportunities to stroll along the waterfront as far as Los Muertos beach.

The destination is seeking funding for even more growth as part of a 25-year development program that would expand the existing airport and build a convention center near Marina Vallarta.

Other news from Puerto Vallarta includes a major renovation at the Sheraton, which is due to reopen fully in June.

• Expo Adventura y Ecoturismo, an adventure travel and ecotourism conference, is slated to take place in Mexico City June 5 to 7.

Last year's event attracted nearly 200 exhibitors and more than 9,000 attendees, including wholesale and retail travel agencies.

• Seatrade released conference program details for Seatrade Cruise Mexico, the first such cruise conference in Mexico. It is scheduled for April 27 to 30 at the Fairmont Acapulco Princess hotel.

Topics of the conference will include itinerary options, ports of call and shore excursions and cruise terminal development. Scott Koepf, president of Ultimate Seminars, will lead a travel agent training session.

• John McCarthy, managing director of the National Trust for Tourism Development, said a 25-year plan is being developed to diversify and improve tourism prospects in Acapulco, along the lines of what has been done in Miami Beach and downtown Las Vegas.

The program, which involves urban development and training for travel service providers, is expected to cost $150 million. It still is in the planning stages.

• Hotel occupancy in Isla Cozumel in the Mexican Carib-bean is up 15% from 2002, according to tourism officials.

"We feel the increase is due, in part, to U.S. travelers' interest in seeking a tranquil, tropical island vacation while remaining close to home," said Gaston Cantarell Diaz, president of the Isla Cozumel Hotel Association.

• InterContinental Hotels Group, the new name for Six Continents, will open 11 hotels in Mexico before the end of 2004, bringing the total number of the company's hotels in the country to 70.

The new openings will include properties in the Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Crowne Plaza brands. Locations will be in Tlalnepantla, Cuernavaca, Orizaba, Puebla, Salina Cruz, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Irapuato, Merida, Villahermosa, Mexico City and Torreon.

• Grupo Posadas will open 20 hotels in Mexico over the next two years, according to a company spokesman. Most will be targeted toward business travelers, with 10 flying the Fiesta Inn flag and two branded as Fiesta Americana. Destinations include Ciudad del Carmen, Orizaba, Celaya, Queretaro and Culiacan.

• Avalon Resorts converted five of its seven properties to an all-inclusive format in January. The company also has introduced a brand with the Avalon Excalibur in Acapulco.

The new brand will be applied to larger properties that are business- and convention-oriented, according to David Schwartz, director of sales.

He said the company will introduce the Excalibur brand in Cancun in 2004.

• Pueblo Bonito Hotels & Resorts completed phase two of its construction program at the Pueblo Bonito at Sunset Beach in Los Cabos.

The completion of the second phase adds 107 suites to the inventory, for a total of 225, as well as a second pool. Work continues on the rest of the 519 suites.

The company plans to open the Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, an adjacent property with 180 rooms and 20 one-bedroom suites, in spring 2005.

• Camino Real Hotels & Resorts completed renovations at its Mexico City and Guadalajara properties. The company also opened the first property under its new Ejecutivo brand -- the Camino Real Ejecutivo Perinorte, in an industrial suburb north of Mexico City -- in January.

In addition, the company is planning to renovate at the Camino Real Cancun and already is upgrading the Camino Real Acapulco Diamante. The company recently opened a corporate sales office in Dallas.

• Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide opened the Sheraton Centro Historico Hotel & Convention Center in Mexico City at the end of February.

The company will open its first W Hotel in Latin America this summer when the W Mexico City debuts in the city's Polanco district.

• By August, Mexicana Airlines will have replaced all of its Boeing 727 aircraft with Airbus A319 and A320 planes.

The airline also announced new code-share service with Copa Airlines of Panama as well as new flights from San Antonio and Austin, Texas.

• Aeromexico will introduce service from Ontario, Calif., to Los Cabos, starting July 7. The airline also is adding a second daily flight between Chicago and Mexico City, starting July 1.

In addition, the carrier is introducing 15 Boeing 737-700 aircraft with winglets, beginning in October. The carrier is also introducing in-flight menus in Clase Premier.

• Aviacsa said it will introduce daily 737 service between Chicago's O'Hare and Monterrey, effective April 6.

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