The Wake of Wilma

As officials and tour companies continue to evacuate tourists, Cancun business leaders hope travelers return for winter

After Hurricane Wilma battered Cancun, Mexico, officials continue to evacuate tourists with the hopes that travelers will be back for the winter travel season.

Already 35,000 tourists have been evacuated many from the U.S., but still thousands more formed long lines outside airports and tour offices, according to reports. While some airports aren't fully operational, airlines and tour operators are rushing to get travelers on flights out, including GOGO Vacations.

Since scheduled carriers were not able to fly into Cancun, GOGO arranged four company-funded private charters to evacuate more than 500 passengers staying in hurricane shelters and hotels.

Officials said all displaced tourists will be returned home by Saturday, Oct. 29.

As the peak winter travel season nears, many with reservations to the region are changing their travel plans. Some say Cancun could lose as much as $800 million in tourism revenue between now and December, according to reports.

While officials are still taking stock of the damages, with spotty communications and power, it’s difficult to get a good read on how much devastation took place. Mexican President Vicente Fox announced the government will dedicate $20 million to beach recovery and $10 million to hotel repairs, according to reports.

Most of Cancun's 140 hotels and resorts are recovering from varying degrees of wind and water damage, officials said. The three Marriott resorts in Cancun will be closed through December, and the Ritz-Carlton Cancun isn’t taking reservations until next year, according to reports.

Meanwhile, some towns, including Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya, are releasing updates to inform travelers they are still in business. Officials in Playa del Carmen say the town sustained minimal damage and the hotels and restaurants plan to welcome tourists for this weekend's Day of the Dead celebrations.

Last year, Cancun hosted 3 million visitors, officials say, and tourism brings Mexico $11 billion each year almost 10 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.