Puerto Vallarta properties weather the storm

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- Just as Puerto Vallarta's hotels were preparing for the start of the winter season, Hurricane Kenna showed up and spoiled the party.

The hurricane, which side-swiped the destination Oct. 25, caused little wind and rain damage, but at least 11 hotels were forced to close due to damage caused by the storm surge and large waves that accompanied the hurricane.

The hardest-hit areas were along Los Muertos Beach, the Malecon (boardwalk promenade) and sections of the Hotel Zone, with little damage in the marina, Nuevo Vallarta and the northern areas of Bahia de Banderas.

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board reported that an estimated 10% of Puerto Vallarta's resorts (about 1,600 rooms) suffered damage in the storm, which inflicted an estimated $50 million in damages.

At least five of the resorts that were closed due to hurricane damage have reopened, including Hotel Rosita, Costa Club Punta Arena, El Pescador, Plaza Pelicanos and Getaway Sun Resort (formerly Blue Bay Getaway).

Most of the damage to these hotels was due to flooding in the lobby area, ground-floor rooms and public spaces, including restaurants.

Dennis Whitelaw, president of the Puerto Vallarta Convention and Visitors Bureau, said approximately 75% of the affected businesses, including restaurants and bars, have reopened, with the rest expected to be open by the start of the high season this month.

In addition, he said, crews are working to repair the damage to the Malecon by Dec. 15, including implementing several improvements that weren't scheduled until next year.

"We're beyond being up and running," said Whitelaw. "We anticipate that there will be no ill effects from the storm whatsoever by the start of the winter season."

Two resorts that are scheduled to reopen later this month are the Buenaventura Hotel & Beach Club and the Premier Hotel & Spa, which sustained about $3 million in damages combined.

Christian Larocque, director of sales and marketing for the two privately owned resorts, said the 236-room Buenaventura took the biggest hit, with an estimated $2.4 million in damage to the main lobby, some first-floor rooms, the outdoor recreation area, boutique and restaurants.

All affected areas are being refurbished, and the Buenaventura is scheduled to reopen Dec. 21, Larocque said.

The 82-room Premier Hotel & Spa, which sustained about $600,000 in damage, is scheduled to reopen Dec. 14 after undergoing repairs to its lobby, restaurants and boutique. No guest rooms were damaged.

Larocque said that advance bookings for the holidays look strong, with 85% occupancy projected for the week of Dec. 21 at the two resorts.

"January looks good, as well, but it's hard to say beyond that because the trend has been last-minute bookings," he said.

The other Puerto Vallarta hotels that are scheduled to reopen later this month or in early January are the Continental Plaza, Vista Club Playa de Oro, Sheraton Buganvilias and Las Palmas.

For more information about Puerto Vallarta, visit the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board's Web site at www.visitpuertovallarta.com.

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