One of Mexico's strongest assets: Value
Last year, Mexico welcomed 22.4 million international tourists. Despite the ongoing negative press about Mexico, the destination continues to attract millions. How is that?
There are many reasons, many of which are the same reasons Mexico attracted tourists long before the problems with drug cartels and violence flared up—the country's beautiful beaches, colorful culture, wide range of resort properties, its archaeological sites and adventure offerings.
But there's another reason why many tourists aren't deterred by some of the bad news out of Mexico. For many, Mexico represents an unbeatable value for the vacation experience, a bang for your American buck, that is difficult to beat.
"Over the last 10 years, I know of no other destination in the world that has raised the standards higher while keeping the prices virtually stable—and in some cases lower—in terms of real dollars, than has Mexico," said Terry Denton, president of Travel Leaders in Fort Worth, Tex.
Denton noted that while airfares to Mexico have increased due to scheduled airline cutbacks and fewer charters, the prices of hotels and resorts south of the border have stayed relatively the same in recent years.
"One of the hardest hit places for negative press was Texas," said Sandy Babin, vice president of marketing for Apple Vacations. That was in large part due to a strongly worded statement issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety last month discouraging spring breakers from heading south of the border.
"While we did see a drop in Mexico sales at the height of the negative stories, we are seeing Mexico pick up again, and the feedback from our area travel agents is that the prices there are too good for people to pass up," said Babin.
For instance, a 7-day, air-inclusive package from St. Louis to the Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana for select June departures runs about $1,450 per person. A 7-day, air-inclusive package to the Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa for select June departs goes for about $980 per person.
Similarly, a 7-day, air-inclusive package from Chicago to the Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana for select May departures goes for about $1,250 per person. While a 7-day, air-inclusive package from Chicago to the Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa for select May departures runs about $950 per person, according to Apple Vacations.
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Photo tour of the creepiest churches on earth
Not every place we love always makes it into a story. The reasons are varied—a magazine page can only hold so many words, an online story can only be so long, and sometimes, even though one Budget Travel editor loves an idea, others don't agree, and it gets outvoted. It's a treat, then, when we get to feature some of these eliminated—though worthy—spots in another venue, like our blog! In an online story coming out next week (just in time for Easter!), we're celebrating the world's most beautiful churches in a feature story and photo slideshow. Our writer Terry Ward did a great job reporting it and came up with more than a dozen gorgeous nominations for us to consider. One in particular, the Capuchin Crypts stood out—not so much for its beauty, but for its can't-turn-away creepiness. The crypts are spread across a series of small chapels beneath a relatively non-descript church called the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, in Rome, Italy. But what makes them spine-tingling is that they're constructed from—and decorated with—the skeletal remains of 4,000 friars, who died in the 17th century. The bones are nailed to the walls and ceiling in intricate sculptural patterns, piled high in corners, and hung from the ceiling as light fixtures. Yikes, right? The photos of the Capuchin Crypts are incredible—but beautiful? Not necessarily. So when it came time to narrow the nominations down and select a list of the top ten most beautiful churches, the Capuchin Crypts didn't make the cut. Instead, we thought we'd share photos of the crypts with you here. We also included photos of another creepy church of bones, the Kutná Hora, near Prague, Czech Republic. Enjoy this peek inside both of them via our slideshow—and be sure to look out next week for a view of the flipside, when we debut our story and slideshow of the most beautiful churches in the world! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: New York City: Church turned club reopens as shopping mecca World's Most Haunting Cemeteries 10 Smallest Bars in the World
View endangered whales off the coast of Cape Cod this week
Those lucky enough to be in the Cape Cod area this week should hit the coast to view one of the rarest creatures on earth. In an aerial survey on Tuesday, researchers counted more than 100 individual right whales, with a preliminary count of more than 200 total. Officials estimate that this number represents a little less than half of the known North Atlantic right whale population. As an adult, the right whale, one of the rarest types of baleen whales, measures 45 to 55 feet in length and weighs up to ninety tons. It has been listed as an endangered species since 1970. The whales are attracted to the waters off the southern coast of Massachusetts because they are particularly rich in zooplankton (tiny organisms that the whales feed on) this year. A survey of zooplankton earlier in the week suggests that the whales will continue to congregate in the area for several more days, possibly even a week. The whales can be seen from the shore, and are as close as a few yards offshore to about a quarter-mile out. As a result of the whale feeding frenzy, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has issued a warning for boaters to avoid the animals. It's against federal law for a vessel to get within 500 yards of them. Boats in the Cape Cod Bay area are advised to proceed with caution, reduce speed (less than 10 knots), and post lookouts to avoid collisions with the enormous mammals. The advisory will be lifted when the whales leave the area. Collisions with vessels are the major cause of human-induced mortality for the right whale. The whales, which practice surface and subsurface feeding, are often difficult to see, and in the past this has led to fatal injuries from collisions with boats. Anyone interested in seeing the whales can do so just by walking on the beach. The whales are gathered around Race Point, but also can been seen down to Long Point in Provincetown and inside to Truro. For more information on Right Whales, visit the Right Whale Conservation Program. — Madeline Grimes MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 10 Natural Wonders to See Before They Disappear 14 Weird Animals You Can Travel to See Cape Cod Uncrowded
Events commemorate the Civil War's 150th anniversary throughout 2011
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Katrina, BP: New Orleans is back
One year after the disastrous BP oil spill and nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, New Orleans reported that it welcomed more than eight million visitors last year for the first time since Katrina. In 2010, New Orleans welcomed 8.3 million visitors, who spent a total of $5.3 billion, the highest visitor spending in the city's history, according to the 2010 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile survey, conducted by the University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center, based on responses from 5,343 people. "It is energizing to see such strong results," said Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, especially, he added, "coming out of the strong economic downturn, and on top of the difficult perception challenges created by the BP oil spill …" Following the oil spill, the New Orleans CVB received $5 million from BP to help fund a tourism marketing campaign intended to combat misperceptions and let people know they could still enjoy New Orleans despite the spill, which took place 115 miles off Louisiana's Gulf coast and never actually reached the popular tourist town. Nevertheless, people were worried about the oil slick and its impact on the region's famous seafood, seafood that is the key ingredient in local specialties such as gumbo, barbecue shrimp, fried oyster po-boys and Cajun-spiced catfish. A Katrina-hardened town determined not to be struck down yet again proactively combated the image issue, using the BP funding to run print, TV and Internet ads with slogans such as "Anyone else need a cocktail?" featuring an image of a shrimp cocktail. Whatever New Orleans is doing (whether actively or passively), it appears to be working. According to the survey, 77.7% of visitors to the Big Easy last year were there on vacation, and they spent an average of $142 per day in the city. So, who's making the trip down south? Residents from Texas, California, Florida, Mississippi and New York brought in the biggest number of visitors to NOLA. What about you? Were you nervous to go to New Orleans last year post-spill? Would you go now? What is it about the Big Easy that makes the city so special? More from Budget Travel: Where to eat and sleep in New Orleans? New Orleans Hotels 25 Reasons We Love New Orleans