THE MEXICO TOURISM BOARD & THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM REPORT THAT NO TOURISTS CURRENTLY IN MEXICO HAVE BEEN INFECTED BY THE H1N1 INFLUENZA VIRUS

Mexico City, Mexico; April 29, 2009- In spite of the health crisis resulting from the phase 4 Swine Flu (H1N1 influenza) detected in Mexico as well as the travel alerts issued by the U.S. and other countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not contemplate the closing of borders or restrictions of trips.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that people “avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico,” but at no moment have they enforced a ban on travel to our country. Health authorities are suggesting that tourists should follow the recommendations provided by the Ministry of Health and international health authorities, in order to prevent the infection and spread of the virus.

Mexico’s Minister of Health, José Ángel Córdova, confirmed that over the next few days, the government will have access to instant rapid result testing detecting the virus in public health centers, to those who have flu-like symptoms.

The Mexican Government has also taken aggressive preventive measures that are directly in line with those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for this level of crisis. Some of these actions are:
– Massive distribution of face masks in Mexico City by members of the military.
– Probability of public and metro transportation service suspension until the situation is under control
– Recommendation of not assisting to large, conglomerated, public events and to keep a distance of 6.5 feet when in company of someone
– Expedite the entrance of antiviral medication into the country which will be managed under controlled prescription
– Preparing the call centers with proper information to attend, orient and inform the public ( 1-800-44-Mexico)

As of now, the WHO has 64 confirmed cases of Influenza H1N1 in the USA and 26 in Mexico. The ones in Mexico have been localized in Mexico City (17 cases), the State of Mexico (7 cases), Oaxaca (1 case) and Veracruz (1 case). To date, no cases have been confirmed in any of the major beach destinations.

The CDC in Atlanta said that there are two antiviral drugs to which the swine influenza is susceptible; these are now being used successfully in the treatment of people infected in the United States and Mexico.
When asked about the position of the tourism sector, the Secretary of Tourism, Rodolfo Elizondo, expressed that the industry is working with federal authorities to confront this health crisis in a coordinated manner. “We have launched a communication strategy in order to keep the industry and tourists in the country informed on preventive measures.”
In addition, Oscar Fitch, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board (MTB), said that “all offices of the MTB abroad are ensuring that both business partners and tourists who plan to travel to Mexico have all required official information.”

It is essential to the Mexican government that all tourists have accurate and timely information on the current situation. People arriving or departing the country must be aware of all the information issued by the health authorities. It is important to know that medical teams have been deployed to conduct questionnaires to passengers about their health and any symptoms of influenza so they can be sent to receive medical attention.

About the Mexico Tourism Board
The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico’s tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB is Mexico’s tourism promotion agency, and its participants include members of both the private and public sectors. The MTB has offices throughout North America, Europe, Japan and Latin America. For more information on destinations and online trip bookings please go to www.visitmexico.com .

Afterthoughts…

By Lola

Home again, keeping to myself just in case I brought along a little snout-nosed visitor with me. I feel just fine, so I think I’m OK, but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. Especially since we hit four airports in one day on the way back. Masks were on and we were very liberal with the Purell, but still…. I’m waiting out the incubation period.

But like I said, I’m fine. What’s not fine is Mexico. It’s reeling, it’s bloodied, it’s battered. And my heart aches for the country and for everyone in it trying to make a living. Millions of dollars are being lost each and every day. From the man selling fresh fruit with chile on a street corner to the suavest hotelier, they’re all hurting.

My mother and her side of the family live there, so the pinch is being felt quite close. Some are in Mexico City, and they’re all staying home, trying to keep safe.

Flu kills over 30,000 people in the U.S. every year. Does that receive as much headline news as this? Precautions, yes. Panic, no. And all the news I’m hearing has a distinct edge of hysteria to it.

Just my opinion.

In all this, we neglected to mention what an amazing ceremony we had on Monday morning during the Mazatlán breakfast in Acapulco. It was the day we’d been looking forward to since we announced the Nick Gallo Award at last year’s Tianguis.

I’ll let Lisa give you her take on it, since she was the presenter. Just warning you: there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Alex Gallo stood up, said some words and read a letter sent in by his mom, Laurie. His Dad would’ve been beyond proud. He is a very special young man, this son of “El Gallo más Gallo”… It was an honor to meet him.

This, Too, Shall Pass

By Lola

Time: Around noon. Place: Acapulco Convention Center.

So I’m standing talking to a representative of the Mexico Tourism Board when we feel a strange shudder move through the building. We thought one of the giant displays had fallen. One second later, the shudder became a shake and we were in the middle of a 5.6 earthquake.

Seriously.

I was strangely calm. Some chickie in a tight Lycra dress and heels somewhere behind me was screaming uncontrollably. We walked outside. It was over before it began.

There’s a saying in Spanish: éramos muchos y parió la abuela. I’m not sure how to translate that, but literally it means “there were a lot of us and grandma just had a kid”. Doesn’t really make sense it English, but there it is.

Mexico has been hit hard lately: the shaky economy, the drug violence, the misbegotten swine flu, and now an earthquake during its biggest and most important tourism and travel trade show. What is usually a bustling, loud, über-populated vortex of business, trade, and anything and everything having to do with Mexico’s tourism has barely risen above a loud hum. And after the quake, well, let’s just say it’s kinda quiet around here.

But you know what? There are still plenty of people here. And the handshakes are firm.

We who love this country, its beauty, the warmth of its people and their indomitable spirit, know this, too, shall pass.

And Mexico will be here, waiting with open arms.

In the meantime, I have an interview to do.

Mexico 2.0 09

by Ron Mader

In the next three months Planeta.com is making a major revision to the Mexico features online our website. We’ll be adding a number of links to Web 2.0 resources and assisting local tour operators, indigenous artesanos and government officials to make most of the Web.

This year Mexico hosts the World Environment Day (June 5) as a way of celebrating environmental awareness around the world. Planeta.com will celebrate the holiday by presenting our annual Colibri Ecotourism Award.

Updates on Planeta.com include features on parks and protected areas, local sports, traditional markets and options for eco travelers. Highlights will include indigenous tourism options throughout the country.

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

David Simmonds

It is that time of year again when hordes of travel industry folks head to Mexico’s grande dame seaport town, Acapulco, for the trade show-conference-party known as Tianguis Turistico. It is the highlight event of the year where buyers and sellers of travel cruise the convention center floor, shaking hands, learning what’s new, and making deals.

President Calderon himself will kick off the three-day event. Also making presentations will be the Minister of Tourism of Mexico, Rodolfo Elizondo Torres, and Oscar Fitch, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board, as well as various state governors and tourism promoters.

Well, the Mexico Premiere folks have to be there for the party, uh, I mean, business event. Actually, Lisa and Lola are already there early working on their tans, eating pizza tacos and camarones. I’ll be joining them on Sunday in time for us to present the first annual Nick Gallo Award that we are inaugurating this year to honor our old friend and fellow traveler, Nick. The award ceremony will be held Monday morning at the Mazatlan Hotel Association breakfast, with our generous co-sponsors, Mexico Boutique Hotels and AeroMexico.

Also on hand will be one of Nick’s sons, Alex Gallo-Brown, down from Seattle, to honor his late dad and to present the award to the winner. And, to make it even cooler, Nick’s wife, Laurie, has designed and provided the award plaque, which is a beautiful piece.

So check in for the next few days and we’ll report what’s happening and what we can expect in the coming year. You can be sure that Mexico will continue to be a major player in the tourism field.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Plans to Open a New St. Regis Resort in Kanai, Mexico, in 2011

The St. Regis Brand Makes the Next Stop on Its Global Expedition with the Deal Signing of the St. Regis Kanai Resort and Residences in Mexico
Opening in 2011, The St. Regis Kanai Resort & Residences will Offer an Unrivaled Dimension of Luxury, Sophistication and Unparalleled Service in One of the World’s Exclusive Beach Enclaves

NEW YORK — Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT) announced plans to open a new St. Regis resort in Kanai, Mexico, an exclusive beachfront community surrounded by the natural beauty of the Mayan Rivera’s lush lagoons and pristine mangroves. Part of the Yucatan Peninsula’s celebrated ecological wonders, The St. Regis Kanai, Resort & Residences will open in 2011 and will feature 124 exquisitely appointed guest rooms and suites, 32 exclusive villas, four restaurants, a signature Remède Spa, oceanfront swimming pools, and two 18-hole signature golf courses designed by award-winning professional golf players Jose Maria Olazabal and Nick Faldo. Owned by ALHEL and GIM Desarrollos, The St. Regis Kanai will offer an unrivaled dimension of luxury, bespoke service and refined elegance at one of the best addresses in the world.

“Today we are proud to introduce The St. Regis Kanai Resort, featuring the iconic luxury, unmatched privilege and bespoke services for which the St. Regis brand is renowned,” said Paul James, Global Brand Leader, The St. Regis and The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts. “Truly one of the world’s most desirable destinations, Mexico is rich in culture and heritage and offers our discerning global guests an exotic array of world-class cuisine, art and stunning natural surroundings.”

“The signing of The St. Regis Kanai is another sign of Starwood’s commitment to develop all its brands in Latin America,” said Osvaldo Librizzi, President of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Latin America “The development of this spectacular resort represents a critical milestone for Starwood as we continue to build on our industry-leading presence in the luxury and upper-upscale segments in Latin America.”

“The St. Regis brand is at an important moment in time as we continue to enhance its extraordinary reputation by adding highly sought after addresses to its global portfolio by working with best-in-class, proven partners like ALHEL and GIM Desarrollos,” said Simon Turner, President of Global Development for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “We look forward to working in partnership with them on this remarkable development, which is sure to be a premier destination that will attract travelers from around the world.”

Nestled on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, The St. Regis Kanai offers guests exclusive access to white sandy beaches, breathtaking ocean views, lush landscapes, and luxury amenities. Only six miles from Playa del Carmen and 24 miles from Cancun International Airport, guests can choose from the resort’s extraordinary line up of recreation activities including tennis, swimming, golf, and personalized spa treatments. Dining at The St. Regis Kanai indulges the senses with a diverse menu of sophisticated and distinct culinary options. The resort’s 32 exclusive villas include private swimming pools and indigenous Mexican design accents with full access to the hotel’s luxury facilities.

Designed by renowned architecture firm Hill Glazer, The St Regis Kanai boasts an eco luxury landscape which adheres to the highest standards of sustainable and conservation-oriented development. The Mayan Riviera is a world-renowned paradise complete with mangroves and lagoons, ancient Mayan cities, ecological reserves and the world’s second largest coral reef.

An ideal choice for weddings, meetings and special events, The St. Regis Kanai will have 15,000 square feet of event space including a 10,000 square feet main ballroom. The resort’s two boardrooms will feature state-of-the-art modern technologies and outdoor terraces with stunning views of the Mayan Riviera mangroves and Caribbean Sea.

Following in the tradition of the legendary The St. Regis Hotel New York, The St. Regis Kanai will feature the famed hallmarks of The St. Regis hotels including the iconic St. Regis Butler Service, bespoke guest experiences and luxury accommodations tailored to meet global travelers’ needs. Trained in the English tradition, the butlers provide ever-present, yet unobtrusive service while anticipating guest needs and customizing each guest’s stay according to his or her specific tastes and preferences.

The new St. Regis Kanai will be the newest addition to The St. Regis portfolio of hotels and resorts in the most coveted destinations around the world including Punta Mita, Aspen, Singapore, New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, London, Rome, Bora Bora, Bali, Beijing and Shanghai.

For more information on The St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, please visit, www.stregis.com

About St. Regis Hotels & Resorts
Combining classic sophistication and modern luxury, the St. Regis brand remains faithful to its commitment to excellence. Founded by John Jacob Astor IV, with the opening of the first St. Regis Hotel in New York City over a century ago, The St. Regis brand of hotels is known for its unique luxury dimension, customized service and refined elegance, in the best destinations worldwide. Plans for this brand to globally continue its legacy include long-awaited St. Regis properties in Atlanta, Buckhead, Baja Mar, the Bahamas, Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico, Bal Harbour and Deer Crest, in the US, and in Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Kanai, and Mexico City in Latin America. St. Regis has also announced plans to open properties in Bangkok, Jakarta, Lhasa, Macau, Osaka, Chengdu, Sanya Yalong Bay and Tinajin. In the Middle East, the St. Regis brand will continue to expand in Cairo, Doha and Bahrain. The distinctive trait of the St. Regis experience is customized service and attention, coveted locations and luxurious design. For more information on The St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, please visit www.stregis.com

About Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 940 properties in approximately 97 countries and 145,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels, resorts and residences with the following internationally renowned brands: St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, W®, Westin®, Le Méridien®, Sheraton®, Four Points® by Sheraton, and the recently launched Aloft®, and Element SM. Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit www.starwoodhotels.com.

Earth Day – Tiger Woods’ Golf Resort Would Destroy One of Baja California’s Most Fragile Environmental and Cultural Landmarks

David Simmonds

Please help stop this catastrophic project.

For Immediate Release: April 22, 2009.

Texas billionaire McCombs ‘discovers’ pristine and endangered habitat; plans exclusive golf course and resort catering to foreign millionaires. 

 

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Punta Banda is the point located on the tip of Ensenada Bay, Baja California, Mexico. It is one of the last remaining areas of endangered maritime coastal scrub habitat and the site of countless prehistoric and historic archeological sites. This spectacular landscape—often compared to California’s Big Sur–boasts sea bluffs, caves, coastal terraces and wondrous tide pools creating a unique coastal environment in the region.  Its cultural and archeological significance has been documented by the international scientific community and Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and visits to the site have long been a tradition for local and foreign peoples alike.

The beauty of this site has attracted Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs, who ironically hopes to dynamite the area and create an exclusive golf course and resort. Prices for these homes range from 3 to 10 million dollars; helicopter flights will allow the elite clientele to take a short ride from San Diego to the resort. Infrastructure needs for the golf course include copious amounts of water which are unavailable in this arid region. The project foresees a desalination plant which will discharge huge quantities of salt sludge directly into the bay. This brine has the potential of affecting water quality and the whole marine ecosystem.

 “The hundreds of acres that would be devastated by the impact of this development belong to an ancient cultural landscape that has attracted people for thousands of years,” explained Ensenada anthropologist Michael Wilken. “There may be evidence of the earliest entry of humans into the Americas, and certainly of thousands of years of human history. There may be sacred sites that should be respected or complexes of Kumiai Indian villages. However if only a token amount of “salvage” archaeology is carried out, we stand to lose priceless and irreplaceable knowledge about the shared cultural heritage of the Californias.”  

McCombs has a history of siting projects in pristine areas which have lead to opposition and litigation; one example is Wolf Creek in Colorado, where permitting processes have been successfully stalled by local communities[1].  In the case of Punta Banda McCombs is relying on the reputation and stature of international golf celebrity Tiger Woods to promote the development.  However possible losses of the cultural heritage at the site, as well as the environmental fragility are major issues, and have provoked strong resistance from the Ensenada community, which is keeping a close eye on the permitting process.

At recent public hearings related to the project, local scientists, community members and activists pointed out numerous glaring flaws and inconsistencies in the environmental impact report presented by the promoters, leading the government’s Environmental Secretariat (SEMARNAT) to request additional information. While Punta Banda is known for its archeological significance, the INAH, the federal agency in charge of all cultural and historic preservation in Mexico, has shown little interest in sites without pyramids or monumental architecture, granting developers quick, low cost permits with minimal mitigation. A project of similar dimensions in the developers’ own country could easily take years and millions of dollars to complete; in this case it is not yet clear what plans the INAH’s federal bureaucracy has for its archeological “salvage” project. Although the Mexican Constitution guarantees the right of Mexican citizens to direct access to the coast, local residents have been alarmed to find that the area has been fenced off, denying all access. Additionally local residents have pointed out that municipal land use ordinances for the area do not allow the construction of this type of development in this fragile zone, and yet the permitting process continues.

Local community leaders, scientists, residents and activists fear the loss of cultural and natural heritage at Punta Banda. The resort as planned would destroy acres of archeological sites as well as fragile coastal and marine ecosystems home to sea lions, harbor seals and peregrine falcons. This week Tiger Woods will be receiving over 200 letters and petitions written by local residents and organizations.  The community is calling on Tiger Woods to withdraw his support of this project, to consider the enormous value of the area for future generations and to collaborate in the creation of a nature preserve which would protect the archeological sites and ecological integrity but also allow for appropriate public use and enjoyment of the area, including hiking in the area’s spectacular landscapes, exploring caves, kayaking, rappelling, sightseeing and scientific research in this rich biodiversity area. “This area must be protected not only for Mexican citizens but for the whole world to benefit from its magnificent landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage” said Mercedes Armendariz, local resident of Punta Banda.

 

CONTACTS:

Carlos Lazcano

011 52 1 (646) 175 9038

Moises Santos Mena

011 52 1 (646) 148 9907

Gabriel Camacho Jimenez

011 52 1 (646) 161 4158

Fernando Ochoa Pineda

011 52 1 (646) 171 5348

Claudia Leyva Aguilera

011 52 1 (646) 136 9161

Aida Navarro

(619) 261 2060

Mike Wilken

(619) 578 3149