Dominican Republic: Tracking damage, recovery

Caribbean associate editor Amy Spiezio visited the Dominican Republic to look at damage and the progress of the island's recovery from Hurricane Georges.

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Almost 90% of this nation's hotel rooms were back in operation soon after Hurricane Georges' departure, according to Felix Jimenez, minister of tourism.

Punta Cana The Dominican Republic has an inventory of 40,000 hotel rooms, and 35,000 of them were available a few days after the storm, he said. Tourism along this nation's northern coast escaped the wrath of Hurricane Georges, according to officials, who said the region, home to almost half of the country's hotels, is fully operational and ready to receive visitors.

The news is not as good in the southeast region, which includes the towns of La Romana, Juan Dolio and Santo Domingo, the capital. The seafront road from Santo Domingo east to Boca Chica was lined with fallen palm trees as well as teams of workers replanting salvageable trees and clearing away debris. Along Santo Domingo's waterside stretch of residences and hotels, branches were piled up as part of the cleanup.

At Puerto Plata, I observed business as usual in resorts, shops and restaurants throughout the area. At the airport, operations were back to normal within days of Georges' landfall Sept. 22.

On the east coast, there was damage to the Punta Cana airport. Airport representatives said reconstruction is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1. Even in its current state, the airport is handling passengers without incident. I saw a planeload of European tourists arrive taking pictures of the reconstruction work while strolling into the damaged terminals.

Simon Suarez, president of the Tourism Promotion Council, said "the Dominican Republic is not completely wiped out." Santo Domingo's electricity was restored quickly after the storm but residential water shortages still existed. Nine days after the storm, I saw residents in the capital's poor sections carrying water jugs.

Government officials said thorough preparations limited damage. Hoteliers installed generators and water systems to avoid the months-long disruptions suffered after Hurricane David hit the island in 1979.

Officials are concerned that media coverage of the storm has frightened away tourists. To counter this perception, the government has made a video, which will be released to the media this week.

Here's the rundown on the properties I visited.

  • In Boca Chica, the Don Juan Beach Resort reopens Oct. 15.
  • In Juan Dolio, the Caribbean Village Decameron Club and Casino; Talanquera Country and Beach Resort; Occidental Playa Real, and Melia Juan Dolio reopen Dec. 1. The Coral Costa Caribe Beach Hotel & Casino reopens Dec. 15.
  • In Punta Cana, Club Dominicus reopens Oct. 21 and the Punta Cana Beach Resort, currently 80% operational, will be fully open by Dec. 1.
  • In total, 12 hotels are closed for repairs.

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