Tourism board estimates Emily cost hotels $96M

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NEW YORK -- A number of resorts and hotels on Cozumel and along the Riviera Maya south of Cancun are closed for repairs through this fall in the wake of Hurricane Emily, which tore through the area in July.

Local tourism sources reported that the southern stretch of the Riviera Maya, from Akumal south to Puerto Aventuras and Tulum, was in particularly bad shape after the Category 4 storm, although repair work was already under way by press time.

For example, Fernando Garcia, managing director of Real Resorts, estimated that 20% of hotels in that area were damaged enough to require temporary closings.

The heaviest damage was at Akumal and Puerto Aventuras, Garcia said, adding that half of the damaged Riviera Maya properties will take up to three months to repair. 

Industry sources report that undamaged or minimally affected destinations include Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos, Punta Maroma and Playa del Carmen/Playacar.

To better determine the storms impact on local infrastructure, the tourism boards of the Riviera Maya and Quintana Roo state joined with the local hotel association and area governments to send out inspection teams on evaluation tours of area hotels and resort properties; the findings were intended to help formulate a recovery plan.

According to Dario Flota, director of tourism board Fideicomiso Riviera Maya, the teams findings jibed with estimates made by Garcia at Real Resorts, with 20% of area hotel rooms -- or some 6,000 units -- damaged.

However, at press time about half of the damaged rooms -- or 3,000 units -- were due to reopen within days, many as soon as electricity was restored, Flota added.

Theres no truly major damage, due to the solid structure of the buildings, and most damage is to seaside [rooms] and palapas.

Still, the Fideicomiso estimates that Riviera Maya hoteliers will have lost some $96 million in business due to the hurricane.

The hotel damage notwithstanding, inspectors found that the bulk of Emilys impact consisted of downed trees and power lines.

Area beaches survived intact, said Flota; in fact, some have grown in size, he added.

The Fideicomiso was pressing ahead with plans at press time to hold the third annual International ReggaeFest music festival at Tukan Beach in Playa del Carmen July 30, trying to show that everything is normal in the destination.

Checking inns

On the island of Cozumel, off the coast of the Riviera Maya, most damage was to the islands southern tip, with reports of destruction of beach bars -- such as Coconuts, on the eastern side  of the tip -- and other shore facilities.

Ferry service to Playa Del Carmen from Cozumel was operating as scheduled; there was no damage to the downtown Punta Langosta Pier, but the Puerto Maya Pier did see some damage to entranceway palapa huts.

In terms of major attractions, only Punta Sur Ecological Park took a big hit; the park is closed for repairs until sometime in October.

The Mexico Tourism Board reported that 1,200 of the nearly 4,000 hotel rooms on Cozumel were affected, with broken windows and water or sand damage.

Among island hotels, the Reef Club Cozumel is to be closed until Aug. 19, while Occidental Hotels and Resorts Allegro Cozumel is shuttered until Nov. 1, although the damaged Grand Cozumel at press time was scheduled to reopen as early as Aug. 5.

Similarly, the Iberostar Cozumel is closed for repairs until Oct. 31, as is the main road in front of the hotel; back on the mainland, all six Iberostar properties were open.

Meanwhile, in the Riviera Maya, Occidentals Royal Hideaway Playacar was reopened promptly, but the Allegro Playacar and the Grand Xcaret were closed until Oct. 1 and Oct. 15, respectively.

AMResorts Sunscape Puerto Aventuras Riviera Maya will reopen Aug. 19; the rest of the chains Sunscape and Secrets properties are open and accepting guests.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts Viva Wyndham Azteca and the Viva Wyndham Maya in Playa del Carmen both will reopen on Aug. 31.

Among independent properties, the Akumal Beach Resort and Club El Mandarin are both reported to be closed until Aug. 31.

Karisma Hotels and Resorts El Dorado Seaside Suites and Hidden Beach Resort are scheduled to reopen Aug. 20.

Palace Resorts Aventura Spa Palace and Xpu-Ha Palace in the Riviera Maya sustained significant damage and are now closed; the north section of Aventura is slated to reopen on Sept. 30 and Xpu-Ha on Oct. 31.

The chains Cozumel Palace, Cancun Palace, Sun Palace and Beach Palace are open for business, but the Playacar Palace, under construction and slated to open in October, also was damaged and has delayed its opening.

All Riu Hotels and Resorts properties in Playa del Carmen -- Palace Mexico, Tequila, Yucatan, Playacar and Lupita -- were open to guests, and landscaping repairs were under way.

Similarly, minimal damage was reported at Sol Melias five area resorts -- Gran Melia Cancun, Gran Melia Turquesa, Paradisus Riviera Cancun, Sol Cabanas del Caribe and Melia Cozumel -- and Barcelo Hotels and Resorts two Riviera Maya properties, Barcelo Maya Beach and Barcelo Maya Caribe Beach.

In all, the Mexico Tourism Board reported that approximately 8,000 of a total of 24,000 guest rooms on the Riviera Maya suffered damage that required temporary closure for repairs.

Flota at Fideicomiso Riviera Maya advised travel agents to check with hotel properties before sending clients down.

With almost 10% of rooms closed, the risk is minor, but we dont want anyone to come down and have an unpleasant surprise.

Flota said the Fideicomiso is making information on other hotel closures and openings available through its www.rivieramaya.com Web site and its (877) 7GO-MAYA or (877) 746-6292 U.S. telephone hot line.

Clear sailing

Among area attractions, the Xel-Ha and Xcaret ecological theme parks both sustained some damage -- largely to landscaping -- and closed temporarily before reopening on July 21 and Aug. 1, respectively.

Flota said the famed seaside Mayan ruins at Tulum are open to visitors and relatively damage-free, save for some damaged access stairways and closed tourist shops near the entrance. 

Those ruins have survived so many hurricanes, theyve proved themselves resistant, said Real Resorts Garcia.

Emily appeared to have done minimal damage to Yucatan cruise facilities as of press time.

Cozumel, the Caribbeans most popular port of call, is operational, as are the piers at Puerto Costa Maya, Calica and Playa del Carmen on the Riviera Maya and Progreso on the Yucatans west, or Gulf of Mexico, coast.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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