Mexico plans to have Cancun’s beaches rebuilt by April 30 |

Mexico plans to have Cancun’s beaches rebuilt by April 30

CANCUN, Mexico – Crews will begin working Jan. 16 to replace the powder-white sand Hurricane Wilma stripped from Cancun’s beaches, and plan to be finished by the last day of April, President Vicente Fox said on Tuesday.The federal government has pledged 200 million pesos (US$19 million, euro16 million) to dredge the ocean floor and replenish the beaches, estimating it will take between 2 and 2.8 million cubic meters (70 to 100 million cubic feet) of sand to finish the job.”The idea is that in the end, we are better than we were before the hurricane,” said Fox, addressing a group of business leaders after the conclusion of a regional energy summit he hosted with Central American leaders.Belgian maritime engineering and construction firm Jan De Nul beat out four other contenders to win the rebuilding contract, and will be charged with maintaining the sand after it has been replaced, Fox said.”We’ll see how far we get and what still needs to be done next April and if there’s something we still need to do or we haven’t completely finished, we are ready to give more,” Fox said of funding for the project.Major coastal developments, including massive U.S. resorts like Miami Beach, often bring in outside sand to bolster beaches and dunes and protect against erosion, experts say. Hurricanes often displace huge amounts of sand, stripping some beaches while making others bigger.Packing 145 mph (235 kph) winds and 30-hours of relentless rain, Hurricane Wilma walloped Cancun – the country’s premier resort – in October, destroying homes, businesses and hotels and blowing away large swaths of beach. Most of the city’s normally glittering resort hotels, restaurants and U.S.-style mini-malls remain closed, nearly two months later and don’t plan to open until January or February at the earliest.Tourism Secretary Rodolfo Elizondo called rebuilding the beaches “very, very, very important for all of us.””This is something we wished for,” said Elizondo, who also attended the meeting with the local business community. “It’s urgent and I am totally sure, Mr. President, that it will not only mean a revitalization, but also a new vision for the destination. A renovated and updated vision of Cancun.”In addition to governmental efforts, private tourism firms have pledged to finance an independent project to rebuild 2 miles (3 kilometers) of beach adjacent to 25 hotels in Cancun’s world-famous hotel zone – a strip of coastline dotted with high-rise resorts and flanked by the Caribbean on one side and a lagoon on the other.Fox also promised Tuesday that work would begin next year on the construction of a new airport for the “Mayan Riviera,” a collection of resorts that includes Playa del Carmen and stretches along the Caribbean Coast south of Cancun.Tourists visiting the fast-growing area currently fly into Cancun, then take buses or vans or drive rental cars the rest of the way.Though Wilma roared through Playa del Carmen, the damage there was not as extensive as in Cancun and life is largely back to normal. Tour operators report that many visitors unable to travel to Cancun have headed to the Riviera Maya, where Wilma’s winds actually caused the beaches to get bigger.The country’s tourism concern, FONATUR, also plans to begin work next year on a “new downtown” development in Cancun, featuring a city hall, marina and massive park.Fox said that increases in the number of tourists visiting Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and other resorts on Mexico’s Pacific coast in October and November has softened the blow of Cancun’s problems for the country’s tourism industry.”Fortunately, those who could not come here have stayed in the country in nearly the majority of the cases,” the president said, citing hotel occupancy rates elsewhere, but failing to provide concrete statistics. “These are people who see Mexico as the place for their vacations and have continued their loyalty to it as a tourist destination and country.”Vail, Colorado

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