Travel Weekly's Mexico E-letter: March 3, 2004

MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL GROUP will operate its first property in Mexico and Latin America when the 128-room Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya opens here in the fall of 2005. Developed by Desarrollos Marinos del Caribe, the property will feature a 20,000-square-foot spa and several restaurants. "Visitors will find a level of privacy and intimacy rarely experienced at luxury resorts, while enjoying award-winning levels of service for which Mandarin Oriental is known," said Edouard Ettedgui, the hotel company's group chief executive. Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental operates 18 luxury hotels worldwide, including 12 in Asia. Five other hotels are under development: Washington (opening this spring); Chiang Mai (opening later this year); Hong Kong (opening in 2005); and Tokyo and Boston (opening in 2006).

MEXICO'S CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS, including its many museums and archaeological sites, welcomed a record number of visitors last year, according to Mexico's Ministry of Tourism. In 2003, more than 10 million tourists, many of them Mexicans, visited the 200,000-plus archaeological sites around the country, an increase of 4.47% from 2002. Mexico has more than 13,000 archeological sites, although only a small percentage has been fully excavated. Museums throughout Mexico also boasted higher numbers last year, with 7.6 million visitors from Mexico and 2.8 million from abroad.

SPEAKING OF MEXICAN CULTURE, Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art is showcasing the "Made in Mexico" exhibition until May 9. The exhibit, which spotlights Mexico's influence as a contemporary artistic center, displays the works of 20 artists whose work features Mexico or was created there, including photography, sculpture and video. After Boston, "Made in Mexico" will relocate to the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles from June 6 to Sept. 12. For more information about the exhibit, call (617) 266-5152 or visit www.icaboston.org.

RUNAWAY said it is offering reduced rates to Mexico. In Cancun and Riviera Maya, for example, four-night packages that include air fare start at $645 per person, double, at the Gran Melia Cancun. The rate is based on departures from Sacramento, Calif. For reservations, call (800) 622-0723.

PLEASANT HOLIDAYS is offering reduced room rates and a fourth night free at the CasaMagna Marriott Resort Puerto Vallarta through April 4. Four-night, land-only packages start at $330 per person, double, reflecting a savings of $464 per couple. Prices include roundtrip airport transfers, accommodations, and all hotel taxes and surcharges. For information or reservations, call (800) 448-3333 or visit www.PleasantAgent.com.

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