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All 104 of Cancun's Hotels Have Reopened Following Hurricane Emily, However,
90% of Hotels in Playa del Carmen, 42 miles South of Cancun,
Received Significant Damage

By Jim Wyss, The Miami Herald
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Jul. 20, 2005--Sunbathers are back on the beach, and the streets of Cancun, Mexico, are largely free of debris just two days after Hurricane Emily battered one of the hemisphere's top tourist destinations, local officials said. 

The president of the Cancun Hotel Association, Jesus Almaguer, said all 104 of the city hotels in the association have reopened. 

"Thank God the damage was minor -- some windows, some thatched roofs, signs -- things of that nature," he said. 

The Category Four hurricane plowed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula early Monday, making landfall about 50 miles south of Cancun. The storm stripped trees, tore down power lines and roofs and forced the evacuation of some 70,000 tourists from the region, the Tourism Secretariat reported. 

Officials in the state of Quintana Roo -- home to Cancun and Cozumel -- initially estimated damage at more than $26 million. However, the federal government is expected to release an official damage toll Wednesday after President Vicente Fox finishes touring the area. 

The director of Cancun's Convention Center -- which was used as a makeshift shelter for almost 2,000 tourists -- said that by Tuesday morning life had returned to normal. 

"We lost two windows, but we have more than 2,000," he said. "I guess we were lucky." 

Further south, the story appears to be much worse. According to press reports, Emily ripped off the roofs of several luxury hotels and left others in knee-high water in the beach town of Playa del Carmen, which is about 42 miles south of Cancun. 

"I would say 90 percent of the hotels here are damaged one way or another," said Karima Khattari, the assistant director at Riu Hotel Playa del Carmen -- a resort with more than 400 rooms. 

The hotel's guests spent Sunday night barricaded in rooms on the second floor, but the hotel itself escaped serious damage, she said. 

Surrounding establishments -- particularly hotels and houses with thatched roofs -- were harder hit. 

Communication to Playa del Carmen and surrounding towns remained spotty. 

Flights to and from the city have resumed but tourists with reservations at damaged hotels are being redirected to Cancun, Khattari said. 

Visitors are the lifeblood of the Yucatan Peninsula. The state of Quintana Roo receives almost 7 million tourists a year. In 2004, the industry pumped $4.1 billion into the local economy -- representing about 30 percent of all of Mexico's tourist dollars, according to the Secretary of Tourism. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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Copyright (c) 2005, The Miami Herald

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