Cancun has set its sights on wooing UK scheduled services and moving away from its image of a ‘cheap’ Caribbean package destination.

The Mexican coastal resort has been extensively rebuilt since being struck by the devastating Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, with hoteliers plunging in more than $2 billion to upgrade facilities.

As a result around 75% of Cancun’s bedstock is now five-star quality, and constitutes ­more than 18% of the luxury product in the whole of Mexico.

“Wilma was here for three days and did a lot of damage,” said Cancun Convention and Visitors’ Bureau chief executive Arturo Escaip. “But it did us some good because lots of companies have over-invested in the product.

“Many of the existing hotels were 30 years old or more, so these have gone and we are back better than ever.” Escaip said Cancun’s reliance on the charter package market had held prices in the UK market – ­its leading source of visitors from Europe – ­below its Caribbean rivals.

“Scheduled carriers make their profits on long-haul routes from first and business class, but we believe there is enough demand from tourists for new services to fly full. We are having lots of discussions with British carriers now,” added Escaip.

Cancun believes it can appeal to visitors interested in history and culture, because of the proximity of two top Mayan archaeological sites.

Meanwhile, the destination has pledged to roll out its existing Cancun Expert online training, currently available to agents in Canada and the US, into the UK in 2008. Top sellers will get access to prizes and free holidays.