Mexico says much of Caribbean coast will be ready for Christmas tourists

Much of Mexico's storm-battered Caribbean coast will be ready for tourists on Christmas holidays, with 75 percent of the infrastructure repaired by Dec. 15, Tourism Secretary Rodolfo Elizondo said Thursday.

The Yucatan Peninsula was hit in October by category-4 Hurricane Wilma, crippling tourism in the glitzy resort of Cancun and the island of Cozumel. Those two resorts will take the longest to repair, Elizondo said.

By Dec. 15, some 13,000 Cancun hotel rooms, or 60 percent of the resort's total, will be ready for guests, he said. In Cozumel, the most popular destination in the world for U.S. divers, only 1,200 rooms _ 30 percent _ will be fit for Christmas visitors, he said. However, there also will be nearly 25,000 hotel rooms available _ 90 percent of the total _ on the Mayan Riviera, a long stretch of white beaches south of Cancun, Elizondo said.

On Wednesday, the Mexican insurance industry association raised its estimate of claims from the three hurricanes that have hit the country since July to US$2.15 billion (Ђ1.83 billion), making this year the most expensive for hurricane damage in Mexican history, the AP reports. With 24 named storms, 2005 has seen the busiest Atlantic hurricane season since records began.


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