Back in Business 10-15-2004

Most properties come through Hurricane Ivan with minimal damage

By: Allen Salkin

The hurricane that hit Jamaica in September skirted most of the island, but some resorts on the Western tip near Negril suffered enough damage to force months-long closings. Hurricane Ivan was expected to slam Jamaica straight on, but, at the last moment, its full force slid west. When it came ashore on Sept. 11, it missed the busiest tourist areas on the island; most properties on the north shore, including Montego Bay, endured only minor damage. And the capital, Kingston, was virtually spared.

Both major Jamaica airports, closed during the storm, were fully open and operational shortly after Ivan’s passing.

But in Negril, where winds reached 145 mph, some hotels will be closed for repairs until mid-November or later, though the damage is mostly to landscaping and roads and not structural. Some of the most renowned island properties were forced to close. Beaches’ Sandy Bay Beach resort will reopen Oct. 28, Beaches’ Negril Beach Resort and Spa re-opened Oct. 1 and Sandals’ Negril Beach Resort and Spa will re-open Nov. 18.

“Landscaping and a few trees down, stuff of that nature,” said Sandals spokesman Michael Hicks, describing the damage.

The chain’s other Jamaica properties were shuttered only briefly.

“Most of our resorts are almost full now,” Hicks said. “All our Montego Bay properties and Ocho Rios properties are up and running. They were closed for less than a week just to clean up.” According to the Jamaica Tourism Board, the Negril properties Catch a Falling Star, Drumville Cove, Mariner’s Inn, Paradise View Hotel and Rock Cliff are all closed until further notice. Meril’s Beach Resort I will accept guests as of Oct. 3 and Meril’s Beach Resort III as of Dec. 20. (Meril’s II is fully operational.) Grand Lido Negril Resort and Spa will accept guests Oct. 15, Tensing Pen is closed until Nov. 11 and Beachcomber will not be open until Dec. 15. In Montego Bay, the only major hotel reporting a storm-related closure was the Holiday Inn Sunspree, which plans to accept guests as of Nov. 30.

“The Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, Montego Bay, only suffered water damage on its first floor from flooding where the sea deposited eight-foot walls of seaweed, which had to be removed with a bulldozer,” said Alan Beaubien, area manager for South Florida and the Caribbean, InterContinental Hotels Group. “IHG actively worked to arrange alternative accommodations for guests who may have scheduled reservations at this affected property.”

The hurricane does not seem to have affected prices. John Lynch, vice president of sales worldwide for Sandals and Beaches resorts, said no special discounts were planned. “We are operating at full capacity since Hurricane Ivan and forecast that this trend will continue,” he said.

In Runaway Bay, most hotels remained fully open, with the exception of Crystal Ripple, which is closed until further notice, and FDR Pebbles, set to open Oct. 9. On the South Coast, Jakes is closed until Oct. 15.

In Kingston, Strawberry Hill, closed until Nov. 22, was the only property shuttered two weeks after Ivan’s departure.

In Port Antonio, Goblin Hill plans to accept guests again Oct. 4, but Fern Hill Club and Trident Villas are closed until further notice. All other properties are fully operational.

In Ocho Rios, everything was open, except the Sunset Jamaica Grande, which suffered no hurricane damage but shuttered as scheduled for long-planned renovations until Dec. 19. During the hurricane, 15,000 tourists from the U.S. and other countries reportedly weathered the storm in north coast hotels.

Jamaica’s Hurricane Recovery: An Eyewitness Inspection

One short week after Hurricane Ivan ravaged the Caribbean, I flew to MoBay to see for myself what was left of Jamaica. I was truly astounded by the tremendous efforts to bring the resort town back to normal. A driving tour of MoBay revealed some obvious damage to the town damaged roofs, boarded up windows, blue tarps but a visit to Sandals Montego Bay and Royal Caribbean proved that these resorts weathered the storm. They were in almost perfect condition, and what damage was visible was being feverishly attended to by armies of workers.

Proceeding east to Ocho Rios was no problem whatsoever. There were some areas of the road that still were somewhat covered by sand, but the government had already done much clearing. (The sight of so many palm trees without their crowns was an eerie reminder of the fierce winds.) The Ocho Rios area was in fine shape. I visited several properties there, and saw only modest signs of the storm. In fact, it looked as if the lovely Royal Plantation Resort had been protected from the storm by an invisible bubble.

A true highlight of the trip was a luncheon at the luxurious Villa Rio Chico, hosted by Sandals chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart. At the villa, the Honorable Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, Jamaica’s Minister of Industry and Tourism, assured me that, as always, Jamaica eagerly awaits tourists with friendly, open arms.

Duke Anderson
Managing Director, Editorial and Production
TravelAge West