Touch of tropics comes to boost Mexico tourism

>PROMOTION COMES AT A HARD TIME AFTER HURRICANE WILMA’S HARM
By Nina Petersen-Perlman
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Monday’s blustery weather didn’t seem to affect three bikini-clad women dancing in a glass-walled truck in front of the Stadium Village Chipotle.

Pedestrians and Chipotle patrons gawked at the sand-filled bus emblazoned with invitations to “Visit Mexico!” and blaring Mexican dance music from noon to 2 p.m.

Monica Sanchez, a representative of the Mexican consulate, said the “promobuses” were sent as an advertising campaign from the Mexico Tourism Board.

The promotion comes at a difficult time for Mexican tourism, with Hurricane Wilma nearly destroying popular spring break destinations like Cancún, said Eduardo Chaillo, regional director for the Mexico Tourism Board in the United States and Canada.

“I think every time we have a major problem like this people are very aware that we need them,” he said. “We are working very hard in the recovery of everything.”

Nathan Wolf, St. Paul Mexican consulate’s general counsel, said he is confident the hurricane won’t affect Cancún for too long.

“Cancún is situated in a hurricane area so this isn’t the first and won’t be the last time,” he said. “We are already starting the reconstruction. It’s not the end of Cancún.”

There are four buses traveling to cold-weather cities in the Midwest and Northeast for the second year, Chaillo said.

“We put a beach environment in cold weather to create desire,” he said, adding that the idea came from a task force in Mexico.

The idea has garnered international acclaim by winning the gold performance award by the Iberian-American Advertising Festival in the alternative media category.

A bus has traveled around the Twin Cities since Wednesday, making stops in downtown Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun, the Mall of America and the Capitol, Sanchez said.

Russ Levinson, the bus driver, said the point of the campaign was to create excitement for tourism in Mexico. Regardless of its actual impact, it certainly has created a stir.

“We were at a Vikings game yesterday and people were shocked and amazed,” he said. “A lot of camera phones came out.”

Many University students were following suit on Monday, pausing on their way to class to take a picture or raise an eyebrow.

“I can’t even think of anything to say,” said laughing fifth-year biology student Erika Fuchs.

Fisheries and wildlife sophomore Alissa Krenn said she found the display funny, but, “I’m not a guy so it doesn’t really appeal to me.”

Some students weren’t so impressed, including African American studies and communications studies junior Benjamin Lenyard.

“It’s biased,” he said. “They’re basing this on the assumption that that’s the only thing you’ll find in Mexico. It also contributes to objectifying women.”

Lenyard said the campaign doesn’t make him want to go to Mexico.

“I could get this in my bedroom if I wanted to,” he said.

HURRICANE WILMA POUNDS POPULAR VACATION SPOTS IN MEXICO
By Than Tibbetts
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Hurricane Wilma’s slow crawl over the Mexican coast left an indelible mark on the region’s way of life.

Although the hurricane’s effects won’t be directly felt 1,700 miles away in Minnesota, the storm scarred the industry many students associate with the area: tourism.

Wilma’s forward motion stalled over Cancún and Cozumel, two popular destinations for students across the country during winter and spring breaks, dumping heavy rains and winds greater than 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported.

News reports indicated looting was breaking out in parts of the cities, with police shooting into the air to deter looters.

Other reports indicated that some of the region’s resorts and hotels might take weeks or even months to repair.

Jocelyn Schulte, a travel adviser at STA Travel, said she has a few clients signed up to travel to Cancún and Cozumel in the next couple of months, but didn’t offer any insight as to whether the trips would be in jeopardy.

Senior travel adviser Jamie Martin, also at STA Travel, said they hadn’t received enough information about the condition of resorts and hotels in the area to know whether vacations will have to be postponed or otherwise altered.

Both said that at this point, there shouldn’t be any concern about booking trips during spring break. Winter break might be different, depending on damage in the region.

Schulte said clients are required to purchase insurance, so those who already booked trips shouldn’t worry about a cancellation.

Some students said Monday that they were planning trips for spring break but hadn’t yet nailed down were they wanted to go.

Wilma, which regained Category 3 strength Monday evening, plowed over Florida earlier in the day before heading out to the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Hurricane Center predicted the storm will be off the New England coast today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.