Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers toured San Juan, Puerto Rico, following the unwelcome visit of Hurricane Georges.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico--One week after Hurricane Georges cut a destructive swath through Puerto Rico from southeast to northwest, San Juan is more than ready to receive visitors.

Based on my tour, agents and operators can feel confident booking clients to San Juan now. Major attractions, restaurants, shops in Old San Juan, the cruise piers, taxi services, the airport and most hotels are fully operational.

Except for stripped palm trees, scarred hillsides, lack of green foliage and the sound of work crews sawing tree limbs, the capital city withstood the storm's fury and dove into cleanup mode even before the rains ended.

Sadly, it's a different story in parts of the interior and along sections of the southwest and western coasts where the loss of life, housing and crops will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to official estimates.

The state of preparedness on the part of the tourism industry and the contingency plans already in place for rapid restoration of power, water and telephone services coalesced into a successful recovery effort for San Juan.

Adalberto Lugo, general manager at Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino, summed up what hoteliers echoed: "I've never seen a better job done by the government and the tourism industry. The priorities after the storm were hospitals and hotels. The results are visible everywhere." During my visit, streets were free of debris, black plastic garbage bags full of tree branches were ready for pickup by cleaning crews and police directed traffic at intersections where signal lights were still out.

Jorge Davila, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC), said, "We were prepared. Our contingency plans were in place. Our visitors who rode out the hurricane with us were safe, protected and informed every step of the way. Of the 11,900 hotel rooms on Puerto Rico, 70% were operational within one week."

The PRTC had established a special toll-free information number where agents and media could obtain updates during and after the storm. Its new Web site tracked the storm and offered up-to-the-minute information on airport operations, airline schedules, and hotel and tourist information. The site is located www.PuertoRicoWeather.com.

Although all of Puerto Rico lost electricity on Sept. 21, 65% of the island had power and 70% had water when I visited.

Here's a rundown on the major San Juan properties (a more detailed listing will appear in Travel Weekly's Oct. 15 Caribbean Guide):

  • Embassy Suites is fully operational. Six-hundred guests were accommodated during storm.
  • El Conquistador Resort & Country Club reopened Oct. 2 with 90% of its 751 rooms in operation. More than 200 guests rode out the storm in the hotel ballroom. The villas at adjacent Las Casitas Village will reopen Nov. 1.
  • Westin Rio Mar will reopen Oct. 15.
  • Hyatt Cerromar will reopen Dec. 15.
  • Hyatt Dorado Beach will reopen Nov. 1.
  • San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is fully operational. Four hundred-seventy guests were onsite at time of hurricane.
  • Wyndham Old San Juan Hotel & Casino is fully operational and reported no damage. One-hundred guests were accommodated during storm.
  • San Juan Grand is fully operational.
  • El San Juan Hotel & Casino reopened Oct. 2. It had evacuated all guests prior to storm.
  • Caribe Hilton & Casino is fully operational.
  • El Convento is fully operational.
  • Hampton Inn is fully operational.
  • Condado Plaza is operating with 325 of its 587 rooms open; additional rooms come on line on a daily basis.
  • Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel & Casino is fully operational.
  • The Radisson Normandie and Wyndham Palmas del Mar sustained damage and are expected to reopen by the end of the year.
  • Puerto Rico will launch a television and print campaign Oct. 14 featuring Arthur Frommer. It will highlight the recovery program, hotels and visitor facilities in San Juan.

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