Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: Feb. 11, 2004

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES will expand its service from Houston to Mexico by adding four new Mexican destinations from April to June, bringing the number of Mexican cities the airline serves to 27. Pending approval, the airline's Continental Express subsidiary will begin daily nonstop service from George Bush Airport in Houston to Monclova (April 4), Puebla (May 2), Oaxaca (June 10) and Toluca (June 10). "Our new daily nonstop service to these Mexican destinations is a clear sign of Continental's commitment to providing travelers with convenient access to Mexico's business and leisure markets," said Jim Summerford, vp-international for Continental. Continental Express will use 50-passenger Embraer jets on each of the new routes except to Monclova, where it will use a 37-seat jet.

SPANISH AIRLINE IBERIA AND MEXICAN CARRIER MEXICANA signed a code-sharing agreement and linked their frequent flyer programs. The code-share pact expands Iberia's reach in Mexico and allows its customers to fly to 30 destinations from Mexico City and Cancun. The deal will also give Iberia access to 10 new destinations in the U.S. and Canada. Mexicana gains access to 34 destinations in Spain, 31 in other European countries and six in Africa and the Middle East.

KERZNER INT'L last week took the wraps off the One&Only Palmilla resort in Los Cabos after an $80 million renovation that lasted 10 months. Kerzner acquired a 50% equity interest in Palmilla in 2002 and signed a long-term management contract for the luxury resort. As part of the renovation, Palmilla opened C, a fine dining restaurant owned by celebrity chef Charlie Trotter, and the property's room count increased to 172 units. Kerzner launched One&Only as a luxury brand in Europe in late 2002.

SPANISH CHAIN RIU HOTELS & RESORTS is bullish on Cancun, where it opened the Riu Palace Las Americas last week, its third resort in Cancun and its eighth in Mexico. RIU classifies the 368-room all-inclusive resort as a five-star property with six restaurants, a fitness facility and spa, and a meetings room for 100 guests. Four of its rooms have been adapted for guests with disabilities. RIU's other Cancun properties are the Riu Cancun and Riu Caribe. The chain plans to open its ninth hotel in Mexico in December, the Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas.

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS is offering reduced rates at the Hyatt Regency Cancun for bookings made by March 31. Four-night, land-only packages start at $283 per person, double, reflecting a savings of $240 per couple, Pleasant said. Prices include roundtrip airport transfers, accommodations, all hotel taxes and surcharges, and on-site assistance from a Pleasant Holidays representative. The offer applies to customers who travel through Feb. 29, and from April 12 to June 30. For information and reservations, call (800) 448-3333 or visit www.pleasantholidays.com or www.pleasantagent.com.

CORRECTION: Through Feb. 29, Funjet Vacations is offering clients savings of $100 per reservation to Mexico. We erroneously reported last week that the savings was "per person." To qualify, travel must be completed by Dec. 15, a four-night minimum stay is required and the reservation must be for a minimum of $1,800 per person.

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