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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 14:49 GMT
Cancun struggles to recover from Wilma
By Claire Marshall
BBC News, Cancun

The sun is shining, and the sea is a beautiful deep azure. But nearly two months after Hurricane Wilma, the beach is out of bounds and Cancun's main strip looks like a building site.

A tourist rests by a warning sign near the beach
The beach is now out of bounds
Cranes dot the horizon. Piles of rubble lie by the side of the road. There seem to be more construction workers than tourists here.

For the moment, the jewel of Mexico's tourism industry has definitely lost its sparkle. The president's pledge of having the resort fully up and running again by the start of the official holiday season appears to have been overly optimistic.

Ginny Main, from Weybridge in England, has been coming to Cancun for the last 13 years. Her holiday is very different this time.

She stands on the steps of her hotel, beside a rope put up by the management to stop people from getting down to the shoreline.

"My husband can't walk along the beach any longer, because all the rocks have been exposed and the sand has been dragged back in to the sea, and it's too dangerous," she says.

"So he really misses that, and he also misses the golf because there are two golf courses here but at the moment you can't play on them."

'Good spirit'

Cancun's world-famous nightlife has also been badly affected. Around 80% of the big bars and clubs are still closed.

Right now in this season, we would be taking 50 to 60 people out each day at least... Today, it's around 10 to 17
Gerardo Peniche
Shotover Jet.
Where crowds are normally jostling to get in, the doormen stand on empty steps, looking hopefully at the odd passer-by. Inside one place, a couple of girls sit on their own at the bar sipping cocktails.

Stephanie, from Canada, has put on a sparkly top for the night, but there are few people to show it off to.

"Yeah, it's pretty quiet," she says. "Normally this place is really busy but now it's quite dead. But there's a good spirit here, I'm sure it'll get back to normal soon."

Cancun's lagoon used to be fringed by lush green undergrowth. Now, it's mostly brown scrub.

Senor Frogs - a usually busy Cancun night spot
Cancun's nightlife has been badly affected
Gerardo Peniche runs Shotover Jet. His gleaming red speedboat zips along the smooth waters. He tugs at the wheel and it slips in to a sickening 360 degree turn.

Normally, tourists pay good money to have the wits scared out of them. But there are few fun-seekers here at the moment.

Gerardo estimates that his business is losing around $2,000 a day.

"Right now in this season, we would be taking 50 to 60 people out each day at least. Today, it's around 10 to 17."


Gabriela Rodriguez is the Tourism Minister for Quintana Roo state. She rode out the storm with dozens of colleagues in their office.

By the end, the building had been flooded and most of the windows blown out. I asked her what the most difficult legacy of Hurricane Wilma had been.

She replied: "Losing the tourism, this region depends on tourism for its income."

And the lessons learned?

"We need more facilities as shelters. We were ready for a hurricane that lasted two days, but this hurricane stayed four days. We ran out of water and food.

"Even though we took care of the tourists, things that were not expected happened. We have learned that we have to make some changes to make their stay a little less unpleasant."

Cancun makes up one third of Mexico's tourist revenue, bringing in over $3bn a year, but little of this much-needed foreign cash is currently flowing in.

According to government figures, the Cancun region loses $15m each day that it does not have the normal number of tourists.

The Mexican authorities are fully aware of this, and are moving quickly with its re-building initiatives - $200m has been pledged to re-build the tattered beaches.

With this much investment, Cancun cannot fail to make a comeback.

See Cancun two months after Hurricane Wilma hit

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