by Terence Baker | December 01, 2005
The island resort of Cancun, Mexico, and large swaths of South Florida continue to grapple with widespread damage caused by Hurricane Wilma in late October. Dozens of meetings set for both locales have been canceled and/or relocated as a result.
    “The economic impact of the hurricane was bad, but it could have been worse,” said Artemio Santos Santos, director general, Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau.
    At press time, Santos estimated that fully 80 percent of Cancun and the Riviera Maya’s 50,000 rooms would be back in use no later than mid-January 2006. “We are sending out e-mails almost daily to inform our partners about which hotels are open,” Santos added.
    While damage to the Cancun Convention Center was relatively minor, two events the International Convention of Foreign Trade and the Inter-American Congress of Cardiologists were forced to reschedule from late October and mid-November, respectively, to mid-January.
    The Dayton, Ohio-based Association of Destination Management Executives, scheduled to meet at the badly damaged Hilton Cancun Golf Resort & Spa in February 2006, moved its meeting to the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo.
    In South Florida, Fort Lauderdale was hardest hit, but all of the city’s hotels were expected to reopen by this month. Florida Encounter, the state’s annual tourism convention, was forced to bump up a month to Dec. 4-7 at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood.
    In a nod to 2005’s unusually severe hurricane season, the city extended its hurricane guarantee for meetings, first offered in 2004 after three major storms hit the state.
    “It originally was designed to protect planners arranging events in August and September,” said Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, “but we realized that we needed to assure them in October, too.”