Mexico's popularity with travellers on the rise

Beautiful Mexico. (LISE GIGUERE/QMI Agency)

Beautiful Mexico. (LISE GIGUERE/QMI Agency)

ROBIN ROBINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:21 PM ET

The sun may have set on the Mayan calendar but Mexico's popularity is on the rise.

According to 2012 third-quarter results, travel to Mexico on Expedia group sites worldwide grew more than 20% compared to 2011, with Cancun being the country's top destination. Popular with both Expedia and Hotels.com consumers, the majority of international visitors come from the United States, Canada and Brazil.

While travellers are initially lured by the area's pristine beaches and water activities, the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau says more are exploring the region's culture and gastronomy, and venturing to nearby islands -- Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Contoy, Cozumel. The CVB says other factors such as easy access -- more than 500 flights per day arrive at Cancun International Airport -- and new all-inclusive hotels such as the adults only Secrets The Vine and Hard Rock Cancun also boosted interest in 2012.

For information on Cancun, see cancun.travel.

MAKE FAMILY MEMORIES IN CUBA

Sunwing says new family rooms and family junior suites at five Memories Resorts in Cuba will make it easier for larger families to plan holidays.

The new rooms have two double beds and one twin bed (to accommodate two adults and up to three children), garden or ocean view, balcony or terrace, air conditioning, satellite TV, hairdryer, in-room safe and a mini-bar. In addition, each resort has activities for all ages, including kids clubs, playgrounds, kids pools and daily entertainment.

Sunwing is offering introductory pricing for family accommodations at Memories Resorts in Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco and Varadero. Prices for seven-day packages start from $495 plus taxes of $290 per person for a Family Junior Suite at Memories Paraiso Beach Resort in Cayo Santa Maria for Toronto departures on Jan. 11, 13 and 16; from $695 plus taxes of $289 per person for a Family Junior Suite at Memories Flamenco Beach Resort in Cayo Coco for Halifax departures on Jan. 28; from $795 plus taxes of $286 per person for a Family Junior Suite at Memories Azul Beach Resort in Cayo Santa Maria for Regina departures on Jan 3; and from $1,155 plus taxes of $286 per person for a Family Room at Memories Varadero Beach Resort in Varadero for Vancouver departures on Jan 11, 13, and 14.

All packages include Sunwing Airlines' "Champagne Service," with a hot lunch or dinner with wine and inflight entertainment. For $40 more per flight segment, travellers can upgrade to Elite Plus service, which offers seat selection, separate check-in at most airports, advance boarding, 30-kg baggage allowance, and seats with extra legroom. To book, see sunwing.ca or visit your travel agent.

JAZZED ABOUT JAMAICA

Superstars Mary J. Blige, John Legend and Michael Bolton will be among the headliners singing the blues during the Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival Jan. 24-26.

The 17th-annual festival, which will be held in Trelawny parish on the island's ruggedly beautiful north coast, spans a range of musical genres, such as jazz, R&B, blues, Latin, reggae and soca.

"The Jamaica Jazz & Blues festival has become a staple on the island's entertainment calendar," said John Lynch, Jamaica's tourism director. "Visitors to the festival are always treated to a star-studded lineup."

For festival details, see jamaicajazzandblues.com. For travel information, go to the Jamaica Tourist Board website, visitjamaica.com.

GO FOR THE SNOW

For seven days each February, the Sapporo Snow Festival transforms Japan's fourth-largest city into a winter dreamland as hundreds of sparkling snow statues and ice sculptures line Odori Park and other festival venues.

In it's 64-year history, the event has become one of Japan's largest winter attractions, and expanded to include an international snow-sculpture contest, snow and ice slides, a huge snow maze and regional foods. This year's event will be held Feb. 5-11, and is expected to draw up to 2-million people. See snowfes.com and click on "English" for details. Travel information is available from the Japan National Tourism Organization's Canadian office, ilovejapan.ca.

CRUISING WITH A THEME

Adventure travellers with a passion for marine biology or photography, or families with children, will find a theme cruise catering to their interest this winter. Un-Cruise Adventures has designed themes for 10 of its small-ship sailings in the Hawaiian Islands and Mexico's Sea of Cortes.

Photography and marine biology cruises include an expert guest host on board for the week. Presentations will be held and guests can interact with the host during the cruise and on guided excursions. One-on-one time will be set aside for questions and hands-on photography advice.

Kids in Nature departures cater to families travelling with kids 12 and younger. The expedition team gears programs to a variety of ages. Hiking excursions, kayaking trips, skiff explorations and snorkelling all provide hands-on learning in a fun environment. Active explorations in nature and wildlife sightings engage all ages.

For dates and details on Un-Cruise Adventures, contact 1-888-862-8881 or your travel agent.

A HEALTHY HIGH

Known for its health-focused vacations, The BodyHoliday in St. Lucia is taking fitness to new heights with its Tree House studio for exercise classes and elegant events.

Built on a hillside beside the resort's wellness centre, the glass-enclosed Tree House towers 8 metres off the ground and provides views of lush gardens and the Caribbean Sea. The new studio is equipped with the latest fitness gear, including 25 LiveStrong-brand spinning bikes and a hi-tech sound system. An open air rooftop "Zen Deck" serves as a scenic yoga studio, archery range and setting for candlelit receptions.

For information about vacations at the five-star, 155-room all-inclusive resort, contact thebodyholiday.com or 1-800-544-2883.

MARDI GRAS, FLORIDA STYLE

A family friendly festival in Panama City, Fla., makes it possible to combine Mardi Gras celebrations with a seaside vacation. A local organization -- the Krewe of Dominique Youx -- bring Bourboun Street style festivities to Panama City Beach's Pier Park for two days of fabulous floats, masked performers, colourful costumes, a parade and street party, Cajun food and fireworks. Events run Feb. 8-9. See visitpanamacitybeach.com.


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