Travel Weekly's Mexico E-Letter: January 15, 2003

MEXICANA eliminated base pay for U.S. agents starting today, but said it "will make efforts to minimize the impact of the commission change" with expanded incentive programs and "alternative revenue-earning streams." The latter will include the Jan. 20 launch of MexiCorp, under which corporate land and air packages will be commissionable at 10%, said Virginia Barclay, Mexicana marketing and e-commerce director for the U.S. and Canada. Barclay said Mexicana will be introducing new products throughout the year that will be commissionable or have service charges paid to the agency for each sale they make. Mexicana's base pay had been 5% uncapped.

MEANWHILE, MexSeaSun, the leisure travel arm of Mexicana that is operated by Mark Travel, said it will maintain its commission structure on vacation packages. MexSeaSun said it will keep its base 13% commission on all packages, including air and land elements, booked through electronic distribution channels, including VAX VacationAccess, and the base 10% commission made through its call center, (866) 263-9732.

SCOTIA PRINCE CRUISES suspended its cruise-ferry service between Tampa, Fla. and Cancun, saying the port of Morelos in Cancun was too shallow for its eight-deck, 485-foot-long ship. The Portland, Maine-based company said it would continue to operate the Tampa-Merida (port of Progreso) portion of the itinerary, which was launched Nov. 22 and is marketed as the Yucatan Express. The last Tampa-Cancun sailing was Jan. 8.

COUNTRY INNS & SUITES BY CARLSON, the chain of mid-priced limited-service hotels, opened its first hotel in Mexico in San Luis Potosi. The 120-room Country Inn & Suites is located on Highway 57, near the city's historic downtown area. Highway 57 is the major highway linking Mexico City to the U.S.

The hotel was developed by GS Consorcio Operador of Mexico City. According to company officials, the new hotel is part of a larger plan by Carlson Hotels to grow its Country Inns & Suites brand in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. In Mexico, the company plans to open five more Country Inns & Suites hotels during the next five years in cities such as Monterrey, Leon and Guanajuato. For information or reservations, call (800) 456-4000 or visit www.countryinns.com.

SUNTRIPS extended its "1 for 14" travel agent promotion, which rewards agents who make 14 roundtrip air bookings from Oakland or Denver to Hawaii or Mexico with a roundtrip ticket on one of the flights. Bookings must be made by Jan. 30 (the original deadline was Dec. 31) for travel through Feb. 28. To participate, agents must track their bookings on special forms and claim their rewards by March 14. Air-only, fly/drives, complete packages and group bookings count toward agents' totals. The agent awards are valid for travel through Dec. 14, 2003. For the forms and more information contact the SunTrips sales department at (800) 786-8747.

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS is offering $100 off per person on its air-inclusive packages from Los Angeles to Cancun during the first two Saturday departures in February. Scheduled, nonstop flights depart LAX on Saturdays, Feb. 1 and 8. Return flights are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 8 and 15. Seven-night, air-inclusive packages to Cancun from Los Angeles start at $793 per person, double. Packages include airport transfers, hotel taxes and surcharges, and on-site assistance from Pleasant customer service representatives. For information or reservations, call (800) 448-3333 or visit www.pleasantholidays.com.

THE ALL-INCLUSIVE Occidental Grand Flamenco Xcaret in Playa del Carmen is offering agents who book the hotel via its Web site at www.grandflamencoxcaret.com by Feb. 28 up to 22% commission. Travel agents who book one of the resort's deluxe rooms for travel any time this year will earn 20% commission, while a Club Royal room booking will earn the agent 22% pay. The promotion applies to the resort's rack rates. The resort's Web site features a dedicated travel agent section. Reservations made via the reservation center, (800) 858-2258, earn agents 15% commission.

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