This was the scene at Los Cabos airport immediately following Hurricane Odile, the Category 4 that, much to meteorologists’ surprise, turned direction at the last minute and hit Los Cabos September 14th, 2014. It brought winds of 125 miles per hour, and caused billions of dollars’ devastation. It is reckoned that over 26,000 tourists were in the area and of all the luxury hotels, it was, says the gal, Las Ventanas that was first, before the storm, to evacuate its guests. At 90 minutes’ notice, they were dispatched, in buses with food, drink, duvets and butlers, for the 26-hour journey north to San Diego.
And this is the scene inside the rebuilt terminal today, but those flying in who might think that all is repaired are in for a nasty shock when they get to the coast. Whereas beach-set resorts were formerly hidden behind banks of undergrowth and thousands of palm trees – many with old fronds deliberately left hanging down, as is the local style – now those resorts are revealed, surrounded by a semi-naked landscape, the few remaining palms looking decidedly terminal. The visitors are flooding in, but they stay in lesser-grade hotels which have been more quickly patched up.
The only decent hotel I saw during my stay was the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf and Spa Resort Los Cabos. It is Mexican-colourful and buzzing with life and its restaurants seem to attract tourists forced to stay elsewhere because their ‘usual’ is still closed (Las Ventanas has over 35 percent repeats). Now why, you may well ask, are the luxury hotels not yet re-opened? The more expensive their property the greater the hassle over insurance assessment. OK, your air conditioning is ten years old so we pay out a lesser amount – no, we need to replace it at higher cost… Also, the higher the hotel category, the larger the landscaped area, and the more plant resuscitation is required, plus there is now a dire shortage of replacement palm trees in the entire region.
Luxury hotels’ bosses, meanwhile, train-train their staff, ready to offer even more superlative service when their hotels re-open, possibly in May. Las Ventanas has retained its entire staff complement, on full pay (the owner covering the substantial tips many made). Working Monday to Friday only, they have ‘packed and re-packed’ for metaphorical guests. Some have moved temporarily to Rosewood siblings, especially to help with the Baha Mar opening. GMs have networked, and given even more attention to courting travel advisors in the US which, despite appalling airlift, is traditionally the source of most of their business.