Spring break crowds boost tourism in Mexico's Mayan Riviera



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Posted on March 22, 2012 at 3:59 PM

PLAYA del CARMEN, Mexico — Spring break, combined with a long holiday weekend in Mexico, pushed hotel occupancy rates in Cancun and the Riviera Maya above 85 percent according to the Cancun Hotel Association.

The island of Cozumel, which is popular with Texans, was expected to see hotel occupancy rates soar to 90 percent over the weekend.

In the tiny town of Tulum, the Amansala Hotel was booked solid.

"Business is good. We've been packed for the past months, and our reservations look strong," said Melissa Pearlman, owner of the "eco chic" hotel and creator of Bikini Bootcamp.

"Bikini Bootcamp is a tune-up for the mind, body, spirit," explained Pearlman, a native of Phoenix who moved to Tulum eight years ago.

The six-day retreat includes a power walk and yoga on the beach at sunrise, an African dance class in the afternoon, and healthy meals.

Tourism here also has enjoyed a healthy boost, unlike other regions of Mexico hurt by concerns about drug violence.

"Down here we haven't had any problems of any kind — nothing," Pearlman said.

Many of her guests are women traveling alone to escape from stressful lives back home. Alicia Martino came to Tulum from Los Angeles seeking "a little solace, a little peace."

As the week-long retreat began to wind down, she admitted it was hard to leave the white sandy beaches of Mexico's Mayan Riviera.

"It will be very sad, but one must get back to reality," said Marino, who has a high-pressure job as a reality TV show producer.

Tourism is up in Mexico despite warnings about drug violence in some regions. According to the Mexican government, more than 22 million tourists visited the country last year, a record.

This year is off to a strong start, especially in the Mayan Rivera, where "no advisory is in effect," according to the U.S. State Department travel warning for Mexico.

Thousands of students crowded beaches in this region, ignoring a Texas Department of Public Safety warning to avoid traveling to Mexico at all during spring break.

After slipping for the last couple of years, Cancun regained the top spot as the preferred foreign destination for college students on spring break, according to Student City, one of the leading student travel agencies.

Plenty of families also flocked to Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Diana Rios, on vacation with her husband and three sons, said she had no worries about traveling to this region of Mexico. "None whatsoever," she emphasized.

The biggest concern for her sons seemed to be escaping from their parents during spring break. "We'll try to get away from them a little while," said Manuel Rios, laughing as his brothers nodded in approval.

E-mail akocherga@wfaa.com