NEW YORK -- Ambergris Caye, Belize's largest resort destination, is
busy cleaning up the damage caused when Hurricane Keith hit the
offshore island on Oct. 2.
While many hotels are temporarily closed, Mark Espat, minister
of tourism for Belize, estimated that the resort island should be
fully operational by Thanksgiving weekend and that 60% of the
repair work should be completed by Nov. 1.
According to Espat, crews have cleared streets in San Pedro and
are removing debris north and south of the town, although property
damage from Keith is much less than it was following Hurricane
Mitch in November 1998, when town and hotel piers needed extensive
However, services such as electricity, water and telephone
communication were hard hit, and as of this writing, most phone
lines are still out between the island and the mainland.
For the moment, this is causing some problems for reservations
requests on calls from the U.S. directly to island properties;
however, travel agents having difficulty contacting hotels directly
should either work through their U.S. or local ground operator or
contact the Belize Tourist Board's toll-free number.
A spot check to a few of the Ambergris resort properties with
U.S. reservations numbers showed that Ramon's Village plans to open
at half occupancy on Nov. 13 and full occupancy on Dec. 22;
Journey's End is hoping to reopen, although probably not to full
occupancy, by Dec. 15; Victoria House will be back in business on
Nov. 1, complete with a new pool and dining room.
Neighboring Caye Caulker -- 11 miles south of Ambergris Caye, 21
miles northeast of Belize City and accessible by boat from both --
suffered the greatest wind and water damage, and several local
Belize tourism interests reported that the island's properties may
not be ready for occupancy until next year.
Espat pointed out that other popular areas for visitors to
Belize, such as the highlands of the Cayo district; Orange Walk;
Corozal; the southern Stann Creek district's Caribbean resorts at
Dangriga and Placencia, and the southern cayes were unaffected by
Hurricane Keith, and hotels and attractions remain open for
Hurricane Keith caught Belize during a strong upsurge in visitor
"In the last two years, making tourism a government priority has
paid off well," said Espat, "for tourist arrivals have grown by
30%, and this year's figures for January to September were up 19%
over last year."
For information on travel to Belize, contact the tourist board
at its Belize City-based information center at (800) 624-0686, or
visit the Web at www.travelbelize.org.
In addition, the Belize Tourism Board has a Web site for
information on Hurricane Keith at www.belizeemergency.net.