Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: January 7, 2004

MEXICO'S NEXT TOURISM HOT SPOT -- the next Cancun or Los Cabos, perhaps -- could be an 8,000-acre plot of land five miles south of Loreto. Mexican tourism officials said they ratified an agreement with Canadian and American developers to construct The Villages of Loreto Bay, a master-planned community that will include 5,000 homes, hotels, golf courses, shops and recreational facilities along three miles of coastline on the Sea of Cortez near the historic town of Loreto. About 5,000 acres will be preserved for open space or recreational purposes. Construction is scheduled to take place in stages over the next 15 years. Officials said 60 homes in the development have already been sold for approximately $30 million. The principals in the Villages of Loreto Bay are Fonatur, Mexico's tourist development agency, and the Trust for Sustainable Development, led by Canadian developer David Butterfield and American developer James Grogan, chairman of the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority. Loreto, about 300 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, was among five Mexican communities selected by Fonatur in the 1970s for tourism expansion. The others are Cancun, Los Cabos, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Huatulco.

THE GRAND XCARET BY OCCIDENTAL in the Riviera Maya plans to create a Celebrity Mole Suite this year in honor of its role in the ABC TV reality series, Celebrity Mole Yucatan, that premieres tonight on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. It will be the fourth installment of the Mole reality series. Six of the program's seven episodes were filmed at the Grand Xcaret by Occidental last spring. Returning Celebrity Mole Hawaii players Stephen Baldwin and Corbin Bernsen will join former talk show host Ananda Lewis, comedian Mark Curry, sitcom stars Tracy Gold and Keisha Knight Pulliam, model Angie Everhart and basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman to try and figure out who among them is The Mole, a person planted by the producers to sabotage their efforts to win money. Former NFL player Ahmad Rashad returns as host. Grand Xcaret by Occidental features 769 rooms, a convention center with an 1,800-person capacity, 11 restaurants, and a spa and fitness center.

THE CELEBRITY MOLE SUITE is scheduled for its unveiling in May and will be adorned with photography, clothing and other items from the filming of the show. Nightly, all-inclusive rates start at $242 per person, double. For more information, visit www.occidentalhotels.com.

FUNJET VACATIONS is promoting its 30 years in business with an Anniversary Sale. Under the promotion, travelers can save up to $1,200 per couple on vacations to Mexico and other destinations, according to Funjet. Trips must be booked by Jan. 23 for travel on select departures from January through April. In Mexico, packages begin at $449.99 per person, double, for four nights at the all-inclusive Flamingo Cancun Resort and Plaza departing from Chicago, $479.99 for four nights at the all-inclusive Caribbean Village Cancun from Houston, $629.99 for three nights at the all-inclusive Grand Xcaret by Occidental from Dallas/Ft. Worth and $999.99 for seven nights at the all-inclusive Riu Caribe from Milwaukee. Packages include roundtrip air fare, hotel, roundtrip airport transfers, hotel taxes and 24-hour traveler assistance. Agents can access Funjet via Vaxvacationaccess.com, the major GDSs or by calling (800) 558-3050.

THE 375-ROOM HILTON LOS CABOS Beach & Golf Resort extended its wedding and honeymoon packages through Feb. 14. Through that date, the wedding package, which includes the services of a "wedding coordinator" to handle practically all wedding arrangements, costs $1,050 per couple for three nights. A three-night honeymoon package costs from $685 per couple. For reservations or information, call (800) Hiltons or visit www.hiltonloscabos.com.

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