When Hurricane Wilma made landfall in October 2005, the sea swallowed Cancun's beach and flooded its hotel zone, while relentless winds peeled back roofs and blew out windows. Overnight, the resort area was left unrecognizable.
Mexico's government reacted quickly--not surprising, considering Cancun brings in a third of the country's tourism revenue. Near the top of the list was fixing the 15.5-mile-long beach. In four months, more than three million tons of sand were pumped ashore by a Belgian dredging company. The cost: $20 million.
Resorts had their own work to do. After a $24 million renovation, Club Med Cancun Yucatán reopens this month with a new look and a family-friendly policy. (It used to be for adults only.) "The Mexican government did a terrific job to make Cancun great again," says Club Med CEO Cédric Gobilliard. "It was important for us to take advantage of the opportunity we were given."
Similarly, Marriott has invested more than $100 million in its JW Marriott and CasaMagna properties. Both reopened in July with new furnishings (including flat-screen TVs), hurricane-resistant windows, and, in the case of the JW, a 35,000-square-foot spa. "In some ways the storm was a blessing," says Christopher Calabrese, director general of the hotel. "We've got more beach now than we had before."
The airport is getting a face-lift, too. Terminal 1--which was heavily damaged--is slated to reopen to charter flights by December, and Terminal 2 has been refurbished, with new check-in counters and departure gates to ease congestion. And in April 2007, a third terminal will be added.