Monthly Archives: April 2011

U.S. Broadens Mexico Travel Warning

The U.S. State Department has broadened its travel warning for Mexico, advising citizens to avoid certain areas and steer clear of driving at night.

The new alert, issued late last week, urges Americans to defer nonessential travel in regions where drug-related violence has surged, including the border state of Tamaulipas and the central state of Michoacan.

It also warns against nonessential travel in parts of eight other states, significantly expanding the scope of an alert issued in September.

“There’s pretty much no state that hasn’t been touched by this. … We’ve seen some major, high-value cartel targets that have been taken down by the Mexican government, but that doesn’t appear to have quelled a lot of the violence,” said Fred Burton, vice president of the Stratfor global intelligence agency. “We see no short-term end in sight.”

The State Department notes that millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico every year. But it also says Mexico’s ongoing violence and security concerns pose “serious risks” for U.S. citizens, and urges travelers to take precautions.

“To reduce risk, you are strongly urged to travel only during daylight hours throughout Mexico, to avoid isolated roads and to use toll roads whenever possible,” the advisory says.

Americans with connections to Mexico had mixed reactions to the latest assessment of travel south of the border.

Friday’s warning was “a major red flag” and “quite a bit more expansive” than past alerts, said Kathleen Fairfax, vice president for global education at Arizona State University.

“We don’t have armored cars like the government does,” said Fairfax, who noted that school officials will meet this week to discuss how the new guidelines might affect study-abroad trips.

But reports of violence can be overblown, the leader of an expatriate group in Mexico said, describing his trip last month to a butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan, a stronghold of Mexico’s La Familia cartel.

“I felt totally safe there. We had no problem at all. You have to be mindful of what’s going on, but there aren’t people attacking anybody, especially expats,” Howard Feldstein said.

The 69-year-old retired small-business owner from Denver, Colorado, heads the Lake Chapala Society, an expatriate community center in the Mexican state of Jalisco with more than 3,000 members. The country remains a “great place to retire,” he said, despite security concerns.

“Life goes on. The people that live here do not live in fear of moving around freely. We’re just, perhaps, more cautious,” he said.

Mexico’s government has not issued an official response to the latest U.S. alert.

Tourism officials have repeatedly stressed that violence occurs mostly in areas along the border that are far from Mexico’s popular landmarks and beaches.

“We should not take the issue out of context,” Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, said in a recent interview. “The distances are very, very great. You wouldn’t stop going to New York because of a problem in Dallas.”

But Burton, of Stratfor, said the latest U.S. State Department alert shows “the unpredictability of where this violence could happen next.”

“The fear is that as you are traveling the highways inside Mexico, that you could be victimized in some sort of roving roadblock,” he said.

Blocking major thoroughfares to prevent police and military reinforcements from arriving has become an increasingly common tactic employed by drug gangs across Mexico.

The State Department advisory warns of carjacking and highway robberies and notes, “Violence along Mexican roads and highways is a particular concern in the northern border region.”

Drug cartel members blocked roads with hijacked vehicles in the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas over two days in March. During clashes with federal police in December, suspected members of La Familia set trucks and buses ablaze on highways in Michoacan.

Mexican government figures indicate more than 34,600 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon announced a crackdown on cartels in December 2006.

The number of U.S. citizens killed in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 111 in 2010, the State Department said.

More than a third of the 2010 reported slayings of U.S. citizens occurred in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, according to the State Department.

“There is no evidence that U.S. tourists have been targeted by criminal elements due to their citizenship. Nonetheless, while in Mexico you should be aware of your surroundings at all times and exercise particular caution in unfamiliar areas,” the alert says.

Friday’s warning also specifies dangers and advises against nonessential travel in parts of the states of Durango, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora and Zacatecas.

Travelers should exercise caution visiting parts of Baja California, Guerrero, Nayarit and Nuevo Leon, the advisory says.

St. Regis Announces 10 Hotel Openings Over The Next 12 Months

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts continues its dynamic global expansion plans with the debut of new hotels and resorts in Bangkok, Florence, China, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Mauritius and Bal Harbour within the next 12 months. Within this time frame, St. Regis will open ten new properties, which is the most the brand has ever debuted in one year since it was founded in 1904.

St. Regis’ expanded footprint will span the world’s most vibrant gateway cities and exotic resort destinations in Africa, Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East and feature new construction as well as a magnificent and meticulous restoration of the Grand Hotel in Florence, which will open as The St. Regis Florence this September.

The following list includes the spectacular new hotels that will join the brand’s distinguished portfolio at the best addresses around the world offering St. Regis’ signature bespoke services, luxury amenities, modern sophistication and refined elegance:

The St. Regis Bangkok, April 2011
The St. Regis Florence, September 2011
The St. Regis Tianjin, Fall 2011
The St. Regis Doha, November 2011
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dubai, November 2011
The St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort, Quarter 4 2011
The St Regis Shenzhen, Quarter 4 2011
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, January 2012
The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, April 2012
The St. Regis Mauritius, April 2012

New Hotels Rumored For Cozumel

Two giant US-owned hotel groups rumored to be planning new projects in Cozumel are remaining tight-lipped and refusing to confirm any details.

Local newspapers have claimed a Sheraton complex is being built on the island and that AMResorts is also planning two hotels.

Starwood’s spokesperson for Latin America, Laura Canepa said, “We are in talks and open to the possibility of a hotel [in Cozumel],” but, “due to confidentiality contracts we have with different developers we cannot be specific and give details for our plans.”

AMResorts is part of the Pennsylvania-based Apple Leisure Group that owns airline USA3000 and package vacation company, Apple Vacations.

It manages a range of resort brands and has more than 25 hotels around Mexico and the Caribbean, including Secrets Capri Riviera Cancun and Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa on the mainland, not far from Cozumel.

New Luxury Resorts Being Built In The Caribbean

You won’t be able to stay there this spring, but a bunch of new resorts are being built in the Caribbean and are set to debut in the next couple of years.

Some new resorts to look out for:

On St. Kitts in the eastern Caribbean, the luxuryKittitian Hill resort is building an initial phase of 110 one- and two-bedroom cottages, 69 luxury villas, an 18-hole Ian Woosnam golf course, beach club, pool, restaurants and other amenities at a cost topping $200 million. The first phase should open in November 2012, managed by Sedona Resorts.

A second phase to start immediately after will include a spa, spa cottages and other amenities.

For more information about Kittitian Hill, call 869-466-1712 or visit kittitianhill.com.

On the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, The Ritz-Carlton luxury resort chain plans a 320-room oceanfront resort with several restaurants, a spa, two swimming pools and a 24-hour casino. The Ritz-Carlton Aruba resort is projected to open in late 2012.

For information about the Ritz-Carlton, visit ritzcarlton.com.

On the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Marriott International plans to debut its JW Marriott brand on Coco Beach, about 20 miles east of San Juan’s main airport as part of a larger 1,000-acre planned development.

The JW Marriott Coco Beach Resort & Spa will feature 371 rooms, a casino, restaurants, spa and fitness center, an outdoor pool, facilities for water sports, access to a championship golf course and a children”s club. Costs for the project are estimated to top $250 million, developers have said.

For more information on Marriott and the Coco Beach Resort, visit marriott.com

Hotelmine Now Offers “Direct Connect” Hotels In Paris

Hotel Sophie Germain and Hotel Etoile Trocadero become Hotelmine Hotel Partners

Hotelmine, the world’s largest “direct connect” hotel site, announced today that they have expanded their presence in Europe to include two new hotel partners, Hotel Sophie Germain Paris and Hotel Etoile Torcadero Paris.

“We are very excited to welcome both of these 3 star hotels to Hotelmine and anticipate that they will be well received in the marketplace,” stated Tom Costello, Partner and Co-Founder of Hotelmine.  “Hotel Sophie Germain and Hotel Etoile Torcadero offer great value and are ideally situated on the left bank in Paris with easy access to some of the most world-renowned landmarks such as fashionable Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower,” said Costello.

About Hotel Sophie Germain

The Hotel Sophie Germain is a 3 star hotel located in the 14th district of Paris and owes its charm to the sophisticated and classical decor, which vary from room to room, and to the attention paid to comfort facilities. Each of the 33 guest rooms at Hotel Sophie Germain features free WiFi, television, individual minibar, breakfast in room, individual safe box, and telephone.

Hotel Sophie Germain

12 rue Sophie Germain 75014 Paris

Phone +33 (0) 1 43 21 43 75

Fax +33 (0) 1 43 20 82 89

hotel@hotelsophiegermain.com

About Hotel Etoile Trocadero

Hotel Etoile Trocadero is a 3 star hotel located in the 16th district of Paris and is within walking distance of the Champs Elysées and the Eiffel Tower.  Each of the 23 guest rooms at Hotel Etoile Trocadero features a private bathroom, hairdryer, individual minibar, and satellite TV.  A continental breakfast is provided every morning and can be served in the guest rooms.

Hotel Etoile Trocadero

21 rue Saint-Didier 75016 Paris

Phone +33 (0) 1 45 53 01 82

Fax +33 (0) 1 45 53 59 56

hotel@etoiletrocadero.com

About Hotelmine

Hotelmine, a Groups International brand, is the “new breed” of hotel sites that delivers customers who are ready to travel directly to your hotel.  When a customer sees something that suits his taste or budget he books direct by calling your hotel or through your hotel’s website booking engine.

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.