Travel Weekly's Mexico E-Letter: October 7, 2002

CAMPAIGN SPENDING: Mexico is poised to unveil a new version of its "Mexico, Closer Than Ever" campaign. Backed by a $27 million budget, some $10 million more than last year, it is scheduled to run on more than a dozen national cable networks like CNN, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel and Weather Channel through March. The campaign will include print ads in major daily newspapers, travel trade journals and specialty magazines that will run concurrently with the TV spots. Radio commercials also will be included.

THE 40-ROOM Hacienda Katanchel, about 16 miles east of Merida, sustained an estimated $1 million in damages in the wake of Hurricane Isidore, said co-owner Anibal Gonzalez. "We built Katanchel in one year, but I promise to rebuild it in three months," Gonzalez said. "We will be open by Christmas." Gonzalez said that eight guests, including four Americans, were at the resort as the hurricane rumbled through the area. Gonzalez said the resort will refund guest deposits and will honor travel agent commissions.

LOOKING TO GET A JUMP on next year's business, SunTrips is offering an early-booking bonus on all of its 2003 Mexico packages with departures from Denver and Oakland, Calif. The bonus applies to resorts in Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos (Oakland departures only), and includes several of the destination's largest resort companies: Allegro, Melia, Fiesta Americana, Royal Solaris and RIU. Under the campaign, customers who book by Dec. 5 can save up to $520 per couple on the hotel portion of a seven-night package. SunTrips also announced that it will continue its popular Vamonos program next year and increase its value. Under the program, clients will receive $50 per person off the regular air-only price (up from $30 per person this year). SunTrips runs its Mexico charters in conjunction with North American Airlines. For additional information or reservations, call (800) 786-8747 or visit the Web at www.suntrips.com.

AEROMEXICO, Mexico's largest airline, plans to inaugurate the only nonstop service from San Diego to Loreto -- the oldest town in Baja California Sur -- effective Nov. 14. Skyteam partner Delta will add its code to the new flights, which will operate aboard an MD80 aircraft and continue on to Mexico City. For information or reservations, call Aeromexico at (800) 237-6639 or visit www.aeromexico.com.

MEXICANA AIRLINES opened an Executive Lounge in the Tom Bradley Int'l terminal at Los Angeles airport. The carrier operates more than a dozen flights a day from the airport to Mexico. The new 1,000-square-foot lounge offers amenities such as personal computers with free access to the Internet, fax machines, snacks, a complimentary bar and free beverages. The lounge is available to all Star Alliance and Frecuenta Gold members, and to passengers traveling on Mexicana's Executive Class.

KERZNER INT'L in the Bahamas closed on its acquisition of a 50% interest in the 115-room Palmilla Resort near Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. The company acquired the share for approximately $38.75 million and also has entered into a long-term management and development agreement.

UNITED AIRLINES will launch seasonal service between Denver, its second-largest hub, and Mexico City. The nonstop service will operate on Saturdays from Dec. 14 through April 26 aboard an Airbus 319 with room for 124 passengers in two classes of service. With the addition of the Denver service, United will serve Mexico City from all of its domestic hubs, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington (Dulles).

THE MEXICO TOURISM BOARD is offering seminars this fall designed to turn travel agents into Mexico specialists. The Mexico Expert programs will consist of half-day, classroom-style seminars focusing on selling Mexico to leisure travelers. Upon completion of the half-day seminar, agents receive a Mexico Specialist diploma and are invited to attend three- to five-night fam trips. There are 20 such trips planned through February to such places as Los Cabos, the Copper Canyon, Veracruz, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, the Riviera Maya, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Merida, Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta. The seminars are preceded by breakfast and a mini-trade show, where agents will be able to meet with Mexico suppliers. For more information, including seminar locations, costs and times, call (800) 599-6633 or visit www.mexico-expert.com.

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