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

THE MEXICO TOURISM BOARD is planning a multimillion-dollar tourism marketing push aimed at the booming U.S. Hispanic population, two-thirds of which is of Mexican descent. The campaign will feature television commercials, radio spots and print advertising with the tag line "Conoce a Mexico de la mejor manera ... de vacaciones," which translates to "The best way to visit Mexico is on vacation." Although the campaign primarily targets Mexican-Americans and Mexicans living in the U.S., the overall goal is to position Mexico as the top vacation destination for all U.S. Hispanics, the Tourism Board said. The tourism campaign will focus on cities with the highest concentration of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as "opportunity markets" like Miami and New York with a large population of other Hispanics.

MEXICO'S TOURISM REVENUE rose 15% during the first four months of the year compared with the same period last year. The increase was spurred by an improving U.S. economy and a desire by Americans to travel closer to home, according to the Mexico Tourism Board. Through April, tourism arrivals rose 12.7% from a year ago, the tourism board said. Tourism revenue totaled $3.9 billion during this period compared with $3.4 billion a year ago, according to the tourism board. For the year, tourism spending is projected to increase by 11%, to more than $10.5 billion, although the country is on course to outperform that forecast. March, for example, set a record for tourism revenue, with visitors spending $1.05 billion on everything from restaurants and attractions to hotels and tours, the first time tourists spent more than $1 billion in a single month. Also setting records was the average spending by tourists while in Mexico, which increased to an all-time high of $724 in the first quarter, up from $690 a year ago. Hotel occupancy through April reached 58.97%, up 3% compared with a year ago. Occupancy at beach resorts was up 5% to 66%.

OAXACA IS POISED to celebrate La Guelaguetza, an annual folkloric festival scheduled July 19 to 26. During this celebration, which is usually held on the last two Mondays of July, groups representing the seven regions of Oaxaca State travel to the capital city of Oaxaca to display their cultural heritage, entertaining crowds with regional song and dance. The fun actually starts on July 17, with pre-festival activities such as a beauty contest and theater performances. Referred to locally as Lunes de Cerro (Monday on the Hill), the festival is held on a hill at the Cerro del Fortin Amphitheater. The word "guelaguetza" is derived from the indigenous Zapotec language and means "an offering" and, in the spirit of the festival, gifts are tossed to the crowd during the performances. Ticket prices start at $30 and can be purchased through hotel concierges. For more information, visit http://guelaguetza-oax.com.

AMRESORTS, with 11 properties in the Dominican Republic and Mexico under the Secrets Resorts & Spas, Dreams Resorts & Spas, and Sunscape Resorts & Spas brand, launched Sweet Dreams, a travel agent incentive program to promote the company's newest Dreams Resorts in Los Cabos, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Agents who book any of the new Dreams Resorts in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos through Sept. 30, for travel through Dec. 18, will earn one free night for every seven nights sold (based on double occupancy). Additionally, agents who book a three-night stay for two plus a four-night stay for two at any of the Dreams Resorts also earn a free night. Free nights can be applied for travel to any Dreams Resort through 2005. Starting July 18, agents will be able to monitor and track their sales in the travel agent section on the Dreams Resorts & Spas Web site at www.dreamsresorts.com. For further information, agents can call (866) 2-DREAMS.

PARAISO DE LA BONITA RESORT & THALASSO on the Riviera Maya launched a three-day cooking lesson program led by its executive chef, Fabrice Guisset. The package includes suite accommodations for three nights, daily breakfast, three days of cooking lessons from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., a monogrammed apron and chef's hat, recipes, daily wine tasting, daily lunch with the chef and two spa treatments. The package costs $585 a night, double, and $778 a night, single occupancy. For information or reservations, call (800) 327-0200 or visit www.paraisodelabonitaresort.com.

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