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Dean's Late Turn Spares Jamaica; Resorts Dodge Major Damage

August 21, 2007 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent

After numerous reports during the weekend about how Hurricane Dean was going to pummel Jamaica with lethal force, the last thing SuperClubs' John Issa thought he would be doing on Monday afternoon was celebrating. But that is exactly what the executive chairman of SuperClubs Resorts was doing when Travel Agent spoke with him after Dean decided to make a last-minute detour and spare the island from major destruction. "We dodged a bullet," Issa told Travel Agent. "We were very fortunate."Dean has moved away from Jamaica after hitting the island nation with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour, and gusts of at least 138 miles per hour.

Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay re-opened Monday. The roadway to Norman Manley Airport in Kingston was being cleared Monday afternoon in order to facilitate access to the airport; this was expected to be completed by the end of the day. Air Jamaica cancelled all flights to Norman Manley Airport scheduled for Monday; however, scheduled flights to Montego Bay resumed.

Nearly 14,000 tourists remained on island and 5,000 residents were housed in 231 shelters throughout the island, as of Monday afternoon, according to Basil Smith, director of the Jamaica Tourist Board. "Initial reports show that we fared reasonably well," Smith said Monday. "The majority of damage suffered was mostly to landscaping and utility poles. Damage to hotels is limited and in general the hotel sector is in good shape." All SuperClubs properties in Jamaica saw only minor damage such as broken branches and excess debris. SuperClubs gave guests who couldn't fly back Sunday a free night.

SuperClubs wasn't the only resort company in Jamaica that got lucky, as all seven Sandals Resorts and three Beaches Resorts in Jamaica also reported no structural damage Monday as a result of Hurricane Dean. "We are thrilled to report the extraordinary good news that our resorts have weathered the storm," said Gordon "Butch" Stewart, Sandals Resorts' founder and chairman, in a written release.

The resorts never lost power and debris clean up was already underway early Monday. Since St. Lucia and Jamaica did experience hurricane-force winds, Sandals and Beaches enacted their Blue Chip Hurricane Guarantee and every guest staying at the three Sandals locations in St. Lucia and 10 Sandals and Beaches locations in Jamaica, will receive a free replacement trip to return.

The free replacement stay is for the same duration and room category as the originally booked trip and is valid for one year after the original vacation. Also, Stewart extended a complimentary night for guests who could not depart their resorts in Jamaica due to cancelled flights Sunday or Monday nights. "What could've been an awful day has turned into one of the most blessed," said Stewart in the release. "Dean turned south, sparing our beloved Jamaica."

Managing Director of Half Moon Montego Bay, Richard Whitfield, reported that the 400-acre resort experienced only minimal effects following Hurricane Dean. A survey crew has assessed the property and has reported only some fallen trees, limbs and debris. There has been no physical damage to any structure or injury to any person. Guests and employees were sheltered at Half Moon's 6,000-square-foot conference center to wait out the storm. Half Moon's crew has begun removing debris left by the storm. The resort is still operational and was scheduled to move guests back into their rooms by Monday afternoon.

"While we were all anxious about the effects of Hurricane Dean, we were well prepared with our emergency management procedures and were in full gear to secure both lives and property," Whitfield said in a written statement.

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