Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: Feb. 25, 2004

TOURISM GENERATED a record $9.457 billion in Mexico last year, a 6.8% increase compared with 2002, despite the fact that fewer tourists visited the country, according to Mexico's Ministry of Tourism. The number of visitors fell from 19.7 million in 2002 to 18.6 million in 2003, but tourists spent more on average last year than in 2002, up 13.8% to $100.50 per person, per day. "These figures reflect the recovery of the world economy but also Mexico's ability to provide diverse options for high-end travelers," said Rodolfo Elizondo, Mexico's secretary of tourism. One bright spot was cruises: Some 5.98 million passengers debarked on Mexican shores from January to November in 2003, up from 4.54 million during the same period in 2002.

AEROMEXICO AND WESTERN UNION inked a deal that allows Aeromexico's customers to pay for their reservations with cash, a move aimed primarily at the airline's Latino clients. After booking by phone, the customer is given a confirmation number to take to any of the almost 45,000 Western Union locations nationwide. Tickets must be paid in full within 24 hours of the reservation. At Western Union, the customer fills out a Quick Collect form and pays a service fee. Western Union sends the payment to Aeromexico, which validates the payment and issues an electronic ticket. According to statistics from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 40% of Hispanics who qualify for credit cards actually have one. Of the U.S. Latin households with annual incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, only 58% hold credit cards, compared with 78% of their Anglo counterparts.

DESTINATION VENTURES, the meeting planning firm based in Bend, Ore., revealed dates for its 2004 Mexico Travel Marketplace program. Destination Ventures said this year's series of presentations will feature "enhanced interactions with exhibitors," allowing agents more time with Mexico suppliers. Instead of the "taco bar tradeshow" format, Mexico Travel Marketplace will include sit-down dinners and 90-minute classroom-style seminars. Organizers have implemented new enrollment guidelines, including a pre-event Mexico sales questionnaire and mandatory IATAN/CLIA/NACOA/CTO identification. There are 12 events planned so far, starting March 15 in Chicago. For details, dates and registration information, visit www.mexicotravelmarket.com.

THE 287-ROOM HOTEL FINISTERRA in Los Cabos is promoting a Cinco de Mayo package offering 20% off standard room rates and a fourth night free for bookings made March 9 to 31 for travel May 1 to Sept. 30. The promotion applies to standard rooms with a rack rate of $125 a night and rooms in the new Palapa Beach Suites section, which sell for $150 a night. For information or reservations, call (800) 347-2252 or visit www.bajahotels.com.

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS is offering a summer promotion at three Melia hotels in Los Cabos [Melia Cabo Real Beach & Golf Resort, Melia Los Cabos and Melia San Lucas] for stays between April 11 and Sept. 30. For example, at the all-inclusive Melia Cabo Real Beach & Golf Resort, a five-night, land-only package starts at $627 per person, double, including roundtrip airport transfers, and all hotel taxes and surcharges. In addition, children 12 and younger stay, play and eat for free. For information or reservations, call (800) 448-3333 or visit www.PleasantAgent.com.

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