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Latest News, Notes and Property Assessment Related to Hurricane Dean

August 23, 2007 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent

Travel Agent finds that most hotels have emerged untouched from the storm and that flight schedules should be back on track by Thursday. Martinique's tourism industry remains intact following the passing of Hurricane Dean. The international airport, Martinique Aimé Césaire International Airport, reopened on August 18, while the island's hotel infrastructure emerged virtually unscathed with only minor cosmetic damages reported to buildings. Hotel landscaping was impacted more extensively, though none of the island's 160 hotels and resorts will close due to the storm.

However, though the tourism related infrastructure of Martinique received no major damage from Hurricane Dean, the storm did do massive damage to the economy, wiping out the island's entire banana crop, Muriel Wiltord, director USA & Latin America for the Martinique Promotion Bureau/CMT USA told Travel Agent Wednesday.

"There's certainly more pressure for us to increase tourism because we have to make up some of the money we lost with the bananas," Wiltord told us, noting that the banana crops take nine months to grow. Also, many of Martinique's rich greenery, such as its tropical gardens and forests were damaged from the storm, which also wiped out 70 percent of the island's sugar cane crops. Wiltord says economic damage to Martinique equates to about $338,000,000. Wiltord says it will take about two to three months to partially restore up, although a full restoration could take much longer.

Wiltord said all members of the bureau as well as tour operators and other travel industry professionals from Martinique recently had an emergency meeting to discuss marketing strategies to significantly increase the number of visitors for next year since tourism and bananas are the island's two main sources for income. In fact, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon arrived in Martinique Wednesday and will stay there for the next two days to inspect damage and speed along recovery efforts.

According to Cesar Lizarraga, Costa Maya's director of sales and marketing, about 50 percent of the port's infrastructure, including the cruise ship pier, has been damaged by the hurricane. An early estimate indicates the port in Mexico will remain closed for six to eight months while clean up and construction crews work to bring the port back to full operational mode. Revitalizing the port and surrounding areas represents a multi-million dollar investment. Visit [].

Cayo Espanto, a private island off the coast of Belize, said it sustained almost no damage as a result of Hurricane Dean. Landscaping and beaches were the only areas affected by the wind and rain, with no damage to the villas, bungalows or dock. Following some landscaping and beach clean-up efforts, Cayo Espanto is welcoming back guests August 24 with an airfare credit of $350 on five-night stays and $600 on seven-night stays for travel through July 2008. Visit [].

Anthony Bowen, vice president and managing director of the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in St. Lucia, reported no structural damage to 60 acre resort and that the hotel is open for business.

Meanwhile, Marriott announced the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort are both open and operating following the passing of Hurricane Dean, said Christopher Calabrese, general manager of both resorts, in a written release. "We had ample time to prepare for Hurricane Dean, and are grateful that we sustained minimal damage," he said.

Three Ritz-Carlton, Caribbean and Mexico hotels-The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun; The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica; and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman-are open for business as usual, reported Ezzat Coutry, senior vice president of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. The hotels incurred no structural damage and are fully operational following the storm. Recovery teams have surveyed the properties and reported fallen trees, limbs and debris, which have been removed. In addition, all three regional airports are open: Sangster International, Montego Bay, Jamaica; Owen Roberts International, Grand Cayman; and Cancun International Airport in Cancun, Mexico.

AM Resorts announced none of its resorts were damaged by the storm. Dreams Cancun and Secrets Capri are in the process of sweeping and cleaning up. There was still no television cable available at Dreams Cancun as of Wednesday afternoon and Secrets Capri is running on an emergency generator, but full power was expected to return at some point Wednesday. Power and phone lines have been restored at Sunscape Puerto Aventuras and all regular channels of communication are open. The swimming pool on the marina side of the resort is open, however the pool on the ocean side will remain closed for 3 to 4 days while it is cleaned and serviced. Visit [].

Except for a few tropical plants uprooted by strong gusts and lots of leaves blown into its two pools, Élan Resort & Spa did not sustain any serious or structural damage from Hurricane Dean. With maximum sustained winds of up to 165 miles per hour, the Category 5 hurricane made landfall at the Yucatan Peninsula near Chetumal, about 225 miles south of Cancun. Because Élan faces the 42-square-mile Nichupté Lagoon, which is rimmed with mangroves, it did not feel the force of the hurricane and the winds coming off the Caribbean Sea. Telephone service and wi-fi are working and the resort is welcoming guests. The Cancun International Airport is open and operational.

Hotel Esencia in Playa Xpu-Ha, about one hour south of Cancun International Airport, reports no structural damage to the property after Hurricane Dean made landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula. The property will reopen to guests on August 28 after clean up of landscaping and debris. In anticipation of Hurricane Dean, Hotel Esencia evacuated all guests on August 18 where guests were able to secure flights home.

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