Toronto Star ePaper

The race to restore tourism


The keyboard and drums from a musical show thump just yards from a mountain of storm debris and frac- tured hotels left by Hurricane Otis three weeks ago. On the northern end of Acapulco Bay, hairdressers and masseuses sweep branches from a beach.

Across the Pacific resort of Acapulco, residents work with a singular purpose: restart the tourism engine of this city of a million people as soon as possible.

“If there’s no tourism, nothing happens,” said Juan Carlos Díaz, a 59-year-old labourer waiting for food distributed by soldiers. “It’s like a little chain, it gener- ates (money) for everyone.”

Otis, a Category 5 hurricane that smacked Acapulco on Oct. 25, damaged 80 per cent of its hotels and 95 per cent of its business, as well as leaving at least 48 people dead, 26 missing and impacting about 250,000 fami- lies, according to government data. Residents are striv- ing to ensure the devastation is not a knockout blow to the once-legendary resort.

Since Acapulco’s golden era during the latter half of the 20th century — when Jackie and John F. Kennedy honeymooned here and Elvis Presley and other stars visited — the rise of other destinations like Cancun combined with organized crime to drive away interna- tional visitors.

But the city still had a devoted following of Mexican tourists who came for its beaches and nightlife. It had been hosting sporting events and major business gath- erings, including an international mining conference that was in town when Otis hit. The resort boasted 20,000 hotel rooms, 377 hotels and a bevy of other vacation accommodations.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has prom- ised that Acapulco will be ready to receive visitors this holiday season, if in reduced numbers, but not every- one believes it. Most think it will take the city a year or two to come back from Otis’s devastation.

Yair Guevara, head waiter at the Dreams hotel, one of the tall towers hollowed out by Otis’s 265-km/h winds, showed up for work the day after the storm and began co-ordinating cleaning shifts for 20 workers. During those early days they were paid in food and basic necessities, he said.

On a recent morning, about 30 members of a collec- tive of masseuses and hairdressers unearthed pieces of wrecked boats as they cleaned a beach on northern Acapulco Bay.

“We want the tourists to come soon,” Linda Vidal said, explaining why they were sweeping the beach.





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