The major tourist areas of Cancun, Playa
del Carmen and Cozumel, Mexico, escaped relatively unscathed from
the fury of Hurricane Dean, which made landfall as a Category 5
storm near Costa Maya and Majahual, some 225 miles south of Cancun.
largely evacuated the three major coastal areas by the time Dean
roared ashore before dawn Tuesday, with some 75,000 tourists
fleeing by air or to more secure areas inland by car or charter
busses, according to the Mexico Tourism Board. Those who couldn't
or decided not to get out rode out the storm in their hotels or at
By all accounts,
tourists and residents were evacuated in a more timely and
organized manner than during Hurricane Wilma, which devastated
Cancun in 2005. Airlines added extra flights as Dean approached,
cruise ships were diverted and hotels and ground operators stepped
up their operations to move visitors to properties outside the hurricane's
"The lessons we
have learned since Hurricane Wilma have been evident in our
preparations for Hurricane Dean," said Arturo Escaip, director
general of the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The entire
destination reacted with professionalism in a timely manner to make
Cancun a safe haven."
slammed into Cancun on Oct. 21, 2005, as a Category 4 storm,
causing an estimated $2.6 billion in damages. Thousands of tourists
were left stranded for days. An ensuing beach restoration project
in Cancun cost an estimated $21 million.
secretary of tourism for the state of Quintana Roo, site of Dean's
landfall, said that the 165 mph winds did considerable damage to
trees, roofs and buildings, "but our archaeological sites at Tulum
and in the region are intact. They have been here hundreds of years
and were built well."
Wave action from
the intense winds battered the entire Yucatan coastline as far
south as Belize, even hurling rocks from the sea up onto land. Wave
heights topped 18 feet in places. One eyewitness said that the
"waves are so vicious that the iguanas are fighting hard to cling
to walls or trees."
northern Belize cited downed power lines, torn roofs and high
surfs. The destination's government is currently
assessing the full effects of the hurricane.
According to a
release, "with the exception of the Northern Corozal district,
early estimates and initial hotel reports indicate very minimal
damage in San Pedro and Caye Caulker. There was no damage sustained
in Belize City, western and southern Belize."
in Mexico are mostly open for business and reported minimal damage,
and airlines are making their return to the affected areas. Resorts
in Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen that did sustain damage
reported mostly broken windows and blown sand.
For example, the
Riviera Maya's Hotel Esencia in Playa Xpu-Ha said it will reopen to
guests Aug. 28 after landscaping and debris clean-up. Resort
officials said the property sustained no structural
In the meantime,
guests who were evacuated from the resort will be refunded for any
unused portion of their trip or credit the unused nights for a
future stay, valid for one year. Customers with reservations who
cannot travel to the region can reschedule their vacations or
cancel their bookings without penalties.
Barcelo Resorts said that its six hotels in Cancun and the Riviera
Maya sustained no "major damage and remain fully operational with
all services and power."
Oasis Hotels &
Resorts, which operates 10 properties representing more than 10,000
rooms in Cancun and the Riviera Maya, weathered Dean
"successfully," according to Enrique Klein, vice president, sales
and marketing for TravAmerica, which represents the hotel firm in
Klein said a
management team was surveying each property and reported no
flooding or major damage. Cell phones, land lines and electric
power are operational.
were received for the area of Akumal where the Grand Oasis Riviera
Maya is located, according to Klein.
In Cancun, the Blue
Bay Getaway and Blue Bay Club reported no structural damage, and
both properties are operational and open for arrivals.
A spokeswoman for
the Cozumel Tourism Promotion Board said Cozumel was "largely
unaffected" by Hurricane Dean. She said all the hotels and resorts
on Cozumel will be open by Aug. 22, with the majority of properties
back in operation already.
Damage to Costa
Maya, the Mexican cruise port near the border of Belize where
Hurricane Dean made landfall, is still being assessed, said Cesar
Lizarraga, Costa Maya's director of sales and marketing. Among
Costa Maya's facilities are three cruise ship berths, a
70,000-square-foot Mayan-theme entertainment complex, a hotel and
several land and sea operators.
Continental Airlines said it is operating its normal flight
schedule to Cancun and Merida, and resumed its service to Cozumel
after canceling its Tuesday morning flight there due to airport
del Sureste, the Mexican airport group that operates several of the
country's top airports, said the Cancun, Cozumel and Merida
airports have resumed operations and reported minimal or no
Although it's too
early to put an exact number on Hurricane Dean's economic impact on
Mexico's tourism industry, up to $300 million in insured losses
from the storm are expected in Mexico, according to Risk Management
Solutions, which calculates hurricane damage for the insurance
industry. By comparison, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 caused $1.8
billion in insured losses, the firm said.
contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].
Gay Nagle Myers contributed to this story.
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