Mexico’s Los Cabos area is likely be closed to inbound travelers for at least a few weeks, Mexico officials said, after Hurricane Odile pummeled the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula early this week.
The storm injured hundreds of people, shuttered dozens of resorts, damaged thousands of homes and temporarily closed the area’s international airport.
Odile, which made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on the evening of Sept. 14, temporarily left most of the area’s 250,000 inhabitants without power while stranding about 30,000 tourists.
Storm damage caused a number of hotels to either evacuate guests immediately or to serve notice that new guests would not be accommodated until at least mid- or late October.
Los Cabos International Airport reported Wednesday that the hurricane had detached the roof on Terminal 1 and collapsed ceiling panels in Terminal 2. But since the runways and tarmacs were still usable, the Mexican government on Tuesday began flying in food, water and medicine and evacuating some of the stranded tourists to Mexico City, Tijuana, Mazatlan and Guadalajara.
Airport operator Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico was estimating that commercial service would not be able to resume until Sept. 26.
Among the harder-hit local resorts were the Starwood Hotels & Resorts brands and the two Hyatt properties, both of which opened late last year. Starwood’s Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar and Westin Resort and Spa Los Cabos sustained enough damage to prevent the properties from accepting new guests until at least Oct. 31.
Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, the company’s first branded all-inclusive resort, and Hyatt Place Los Cabos both shut down and won’t take new reservations until mid-October. The Esperanza, an Auberge resort where President Obama stayed during the G-20 Mexico Summit in 2012, will be closed until Oct. 13.
Apple Leisure Group’s AMResorts, operator of four all-inclusive resorts in the area — two Secrets, one Dreams and one Zoetry property — evacuated all its guests after its properties sustained substantial damage from the hurricane and its resulting debris.
“The situation in Los Cabos is bad,” said Apple Leisure Group CEO Alex Zozaya. “We have four hotels there, and three will be out of commission for several weeks.”
He added that a number of the company’s employees lost their homes.
Kerzner International’s One&Only Palmilla resort evacuated its guests ahead of the storm and won’t accept new guests until Sept. 30. Riu said its Hotel Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas and Hotel Riu Santa Fe would start welcoming guests late this week.
And the Wyndham Cabo San Lucas sustained broken windows and signage damage but was “operational on a limited basis” as of midweek.
Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Lines, whose next scheduled Cabo San Lucas stop is Oct. 4, said in a statement that it “will continue to assess the situation during the intervening time period.”
Odile made landfall with winds as high as 127 mph, according to AccuWeather. As of Sept. 18, about 135 people had been treated for minor injuries, though there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries, according to the Associated Press.
Still, more than 239,000 people lost power in the region, which is about 1,000 miles south of San Diego. And while Mexican officials said almost all those affected were slated to get power back later this week, reports of looting surfaced midweek, triggering a jump in local patrol duty.
The hurricane marks a setback for an area where tourism had been on the rise in recent years. Los Cabos, which includes Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, attracts about 2 million visitors a year, about the same number as Jamaica.
Passenger numbers through Los Cabos Airport rose about 12% last year, up 29% from 2009, the nadir of the recession.
With that momentum in mind, Mexican tourism officials this week will meet in New York with some of the industry’s larger travel providers to address the region’s challenges during the upcoming weeks and months.
Mexico Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu and Mexico Tourism Board CEO Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete will both discuss “a plan of action” with U.S. travel professionals and some of the travel trade on Sept. 25.
Regardless, the extent of the damage prevented many resort operators last week from estimating when they would be able to return to normal operations.
The Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort said that all guests and employees were safe but that the property would be closed “until a definitive assessment of the damage is complete.”
InterContinental Hotels Group’s Holiday Inn Express Cabo San Lucas and Holiday Inn Resort Los Cabos were serving guests as of last week but had suffered “some structural damages” and weren’t planning to accept new reservations until a yet-to-be-determined date.
Both Grupo Vidanta’s Grand Mayan Los Cabos and Barcelo Grand Faro Los Cabos announced that they would not be taking new guests until further notice, and the latter property had evacuated about a third of its approximately 300 guests as of Sept. 17.
Apple Vacations said this week that it was contacting all passengers scheduled to travel to Los Cabos through Sept. 20 to rebook them for a future date or alternative destination. Pleasant Holidays said it was doing the same for travel agency partners with vacations scheduled through Oct. 1.
MLT Vacations, which said it had “a small number” of guests in Los Cabos during the hurricane, is advising travel agents with clients planning Los Cabos vacations before Oct. 4 to contact the company for rebookings.
Gogo Vacations, which had 133 passengers in Los Cabos at the time of the storm, has an outreach program to offer assistance to stranded customers. Clients scheduled for departure through Oct. 31 are being offered reaccommodation services.
Meanwhile, Polo was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane late Sept. 17 and had the potential to approach Los Cabos over the weekend, though it was expected to stay offshore, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tom Stieghorst contributed to this report.