CANCUN -- The Mexico
Tourism Board (MTB) launched a $10 million recovery media campaign
abroad to promote leisure destinations affected by Hurricane Wilma,
as hotels, resorts and visitor attractions in Cancun, Cozumel and
the Riviera Maya assessed storm damage and began announcing
tentative reopening dates.
According to MTB
Chief Executive Francisco Ortiz, the print and television campaign
is just one in a series of advertising and marketing initiatives
leading up to a relaunch event on Dec. 15, the date by which
Mexican President Vicente Fox has pledged 80% of affected
destinations would reopen.
interests are, predictably, upbeat about the pace of
We have plenty of
hotel rooms, and every day resorts, attractions and restaurants are
reopening, said Julian Balbuena, general manager of Cancun-based
incoming operator Best Day Travel.
The market is
reacting positively and strongly ... [and] we recommend travelers
dont cancel or simply postpone trips.
To that end, Mexicos
federal government is pledging millions of dollars to help Cancun,
Cozumel and other destinations in Quintana Roo state recover from
Wilma, which tore through the area in late October.
Mexico City is
exempting all investments in storm-affected areas from paying
federal tax through June, and will allow affected businesses to pay
Social Security taxes and utility bills in interest-free
In addition, Mexican
national tourism trust Fonatur will commit $20 million to restoring
beachfronts along Cancuns Caribbean coast and another $10 million
to infrastructure repairs, while some $820 million in bank
financing and loans will be made available to hotels and small- and
midsize businesses in affected areas.
Cozumel will enjoy
similar recovery assistance, according to Mexico Tourism Secretary
such as Elizondo estimate Wilma could cost Cancun and the
surrounding region some $800 million in tourist revenue this
Visitors to Cancun,
Cozumel and nearby destinations generate some 38% of Mexicos
estimated $11 billion annual tourism income, according to official
The MTB is
positioning the promotional campaign as a second stage in area
recovery efforts, claiming that visitor evacuations and the initial
clean-up have been completed and most basic public services
airport resumed full operations Nov. 1. Delta, Continental and US
Airways were slated to resume flying in from all their U.S. hubs by
According to Ortiz,
many hotels in Cancun and its environs are operating again, as
international visitors begin to return.
In fact, according to
local tourist board, tour operator and hotelier reports, nearly 19%
of the citys 27,500 guest units were already back on line as of
The Cancun Convention
and Visitor Bureau (CCVB) estimates that as of Nov. 4, 5,200 guest
rooms in the city had reopened; if all goes well, 8,700 were
to be ready by Nov. 25.
The number is
expected to climb to 15,800 by Dec. 15; 16,800 by Dec. 23; and some
20,900 by Jan. 15.
Cancun hotels already
accepting guests this month include Gran Costa Real Resort and Spa
and Riu Palace Las Americas, both open at press time, and Le
Meridien Cancun Resort and Spa, to reopen on Nov. 20.
Between Dec. 1 and
22, guests can check in at Gran Caribe Real Resort and Spa (tower
only), Secrets Excellence, Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa, Moon
Palace Golf and Spa Resort, Beach Palace, Riu Caribe, Sheraton
Cancun Resort and Towers, NH Krystal, Westin Resort and Spa Cancun
and Oasis Viva and Oasis Beach.
Also reopening Dec.
15 is the Presidente InterContinental Cancun, where the hurricane
actually added some 15 feet to the beachfront, which faces Bahia de
higher-end properties such as the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun and J.W.
Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa will join the Marriott Casa Magna
Cancun Resort, Sun Palace, Avalon Baccara Cancun and Fiesta
Americana Condesa Cancun and Grand Coral Beach Cancun in
January are Palace Resorts Cancun Palace, Le Blanc Spa Resort and
Sun Palace, to reopen Feb. 1; the Hyatt Regency Cancun, ready March
1; and the Avalon Grand Cancun, to open May 1.
Club Med said it
plans to reopen its 428-room Cancun resort sometime next spring;
guests holding reservations can rebook at another Club Med resort
through Dec. 31.
Major properties for
which no reopening date had been set at press time included the
Hilton Cancun Beach and Golf Resort, Holiday Inn Express Cancun and
Hyatt Cancun Caribe Villas.
Sol Melia Hotels and
Resorts shuttered its five Cancun and Cozumel properties -- the
Gran Melia Cancun, Melia Turquesa Beach Resort, Sol Cabanas del
Caribe, Paradisus Riviera Cancun and Melia Cozumel -- pending
further damage assessment.
Open hotels on
Cozumel include the Days Inn, Flamingo and Casa
In the longer term,
the Playa Azul and Casa del Mar reopen by Dec. 15, with the Coral
Princess, Fiesta Americana and Occidental Allegro and Occidental
Grand reopening by Feb. 1.
further notice are the Hacienda San Miguel, El Cozumeleno,
Presidente InterContinental, Reef Club and Cozumel
Meanwhile, a Royal
Caribbean passenger ship will be the first cruise to call at
Cozumel since Wilma, anchoring on the island Nov. 14, according to
the MTBs Ortiz.
Cozumels airport is
operational -- with daily flights from Mexicana, thrice-weekly
service from Continental to Houston, and three flights a week from
Dallas on American as of Dec. 16 -- and electricity and water have
been restored to 90% of the island, according to Raul Marrufo,
director of the Cozumel Tourism Promotion Board.
Farther south, the
Riviera Maya -- lashed by Hurricane Emily in July -- was largely
spared this time around, and properties prepared to reopen
For example, Blue
Parrot Hotels in Playa del Carmen said its three properties -- Blue
Parrot Hotel, Blue Parrot Suites and Blue Parrot on 5th Avenue --
were operating at 75% capacity immediately after Wilma
Reports ... that
Playa del Carmen was destroyed were highly exaggerated, said Blue
Parrot Hotels owner Tom Doody in an Oct. 28 statement. Yes, cleanup
is still under way, but ... our tourist district will be back to
normal in no time.
Juan Pedro Mercader,
Mexicos federal undersecretary of tourism development, estimates
13,700 rooms will reopen along the Riviera Maya by Nov. 15,
increasing to 17,400 by Dec.15.
Real Resorts Royal
Porto Real Playa del Carmen Resort and Spa -- which had just
celebrated a grand opening Oct. 16 -- is open, as is the chains
Gran Porto Real Resort and Spa and Real Playa del
Paraiso de la Bonita
Resort and Thalasso sustained damage to its dock, beachfront
restaurant, gardens and a pool terrace, and plans to reopen on Jan.
EcoTulum Resorts and
Spa reports its three rustic boutique hotels and Maya Spa in Tulum
had reopened as of Oct. 31.
All nine Cancun area
golf courses will reopen soon, with the Playacar and Mayan Resorts
courses fully open at press time; Iberostars in full operation by
Nov. 15; Cozumel Country Club open its first nine holes Nov. 5 and
the rest by Dec. 15; Moon Palace reopening Nov. 30; Hilton Cancun
reportedly reopening Dec. 15, along with the Cancun Golf Club at
Pok ta Pok; El Camaleon at the new Fairmont Mayakoba opening as
planned Jan. 15 and the Playa Mujeres course opening in
The Dolphin Discovery
attractions at Puerto Aventuras and Isla Mujeres were scheduled to
be in operation by press time, as was the Cancun Convention
Meanwhile, the Xel-Ha
and Xcaret eco-adventure parks, which were already recovering from
Hurricane Emily in July, will reopen Dec. 1 and 12,
For the latest
updates, visit such sites as the CCVBs www.cancun.info,
Cozumels www.islacozumel.com.mx or the Riviera Maya Tourism
Promotion Boards www.rivieramaya.com/eng/infocenter.htm.
Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].