MEXICO BLUES...ATLANTIC CITY...DEAL OF THE DAY: MED. CRUISE
Poor Mexico. Every time they get knocked down they climb back up again. Only to take another haymaker to the head.
First it was the drugs/crime issue. Folks in the U.S. and Canada for the longest time were running stories on murders and mayhem in Mexico cities. Much of the problem was taking place in border cities or towns that tourists don't go to but the issue still proved difficult for the nation's tourism people.
Just as that started dying down, at least in terms of volume of publicity, came the swine flu scare. Out came another round of deep discounts from Mexican tourism folks. That situation died down, and tourists once again flocked to the sunny south.
Last week there was talk of a hurricane slamming into Los Cabos, but it didn't happen.
Things were looking pretty good for Mexico, and with fall in Canada and the U.S. rapidly approaching they were praying for stability and solid bookings. But then came yesterday's news that hijackers (admittedly Bolivian and not Mexican, not that it matters to passengers or would-be tourists) had taken control of a plane in Cancun, a tourist mecca, and had it flown to Mexico City.
The 104 passengers are said to have been released. But it'll take time for tourists to get over the shock.
For the latest, go to www.thestar.com.
MEET ME TONIGHT IN ATLANTIC CITY
Had a brief meeting this morning with Jeffrey Vasser of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority. He was in town because West Jet will start daily flights from Toronto to Atlantic City on Oct. 22.
Vasser says the rules of the game have changed for his town.
"We had the East Coast monopoly (on gambling) for 25 years," he said. "Now, if someone wants to pull the lever on a slot machine they can do it close to home."
That has forced Atlantic City to move more into dining, entertainment, golf and spas. They're also drumming up more meeting business.
"We'll never be Vegas. They have 140,000 rooms. But we have 18,000 first class hotel rooms and lots of folks in the U.S. don't have to get on a plane to visit. We're an hour from Philadelphia and two hours from New York City."
There's also a weekend train from Penn Station to Atlantic City that costs only $29 one-way, with just a single stop in Newark along the way.
Vasser says Atlantic City is home to new restaurants with names such as Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck attached, as well as a branch of the famed Il Mulino. They're also bringing in New York DJ's to liven up the entertainment scene.
"We're getting 20 to 30-year-olds who never thought of Atlantic City as their kind of place. To some New Yorkers, we're still the place where grandma goes for four or five hours, drops a roll of quarters and leaves."
There are top-notch golf courses in the area, Vasser says, including Galloway National, as well as non-gaming hotels that range from the Water Club to the new, boutique-style Chelsea and a Courtyard Marriott.
"We also found that two-thirds of our visitors are women. We get a lot of bachelorette parties."
Bachelorettes? Golf? Hey, guys, I think they may be on to something.
Maybe some of the sports people should follow suit. I mean, who needs Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. How about just calling it "O."
Montreal had the Big O, but the ballpark in Baltimore would be kind of a lower-case O. It was the first of the new, retro-style parks and most folks say it's still the best. I was lucky enough to cover baseball for the Star when it opened and always enjoyed trips to Baltimore and walking around the inner harbour. It's a fabulous ballpark. Some of the other retro parks are pretty good, including the one in Cleveland, but the little O is still at the top of most people's lists.
JIM'S DEAL OF THE DAY
Louis Cruises’ new ship, the Louis Majesty, sails the