HAVANA TIMES – A travel agent put together an exhaustive report today on the situation of the hotel facilities on the Varadero peninsula. Here we publish our translation of his unofficial report that appeared in Spanish on Trip Advisor.
Detailed report of a travel agent at the scene
By Chillin 61 (Tuesday, September 12, 2017)
I am going to share information about CUBA:
Here is the status of Cuba’s Varadero destination after Hurricane Irma.
Varadero has succumbed to Irma in an unimaginable way. The hurricane was not expected to have serious consequences at this destination however the devastation caused by Irma can be compared to the destruction caused by Hurricane “Ike” that devastated the area of Holguin several years ago.
The roads from the Varadero Airport to the Hotel area are almost completely blocked by debris, fallen trees and fallen electricity poles making the area practically inaccessible at the moment.
The road closest to the ocean is also blocked by rocks, sand, debris and trees. It is almost impossible to visualize the road and we can estimate that it will require several days of work to remove all the debris blocking these routes.
Varadero Airport is closed. Today we were unable to reach the airport since the road is totally blocked by debris and trees. An inspection visit will be attempted tomorrow to assess the damage, but according to information from authorities, the airport is not expected to resume operations tomorrow.
In the city of Varadero you can see structural damage in the residential areas and commercial centers. First Avenue as well as other main avenues also have debris, fallen trees, electric poles and downed cables. At the moment it is not considered safe to transit the area.
Havana Airport is also closed until further notice. [Later it reopened on Tuesday afternoon]
Below is a summary of the general situation of the Hotels in the Varadero area after the inspection visits made today by our colleagues at Destino.
· Access to some hotels is blocked by trees and debris.
· Recovery and cleanup work has begun in hotels but not yet on the roads and resort areas.
· Hotels do not have regular electricity. Most are running on backup generators.
· Telephone or Internet services are not available.
· Cell phones work in some areas however the signal works erratically.
· Recovery work has begun but the current priority of the authorities is to carry out a complete evaluation of the damage.
· Most customers are in their rooms and all people have been asked to stay away from beach areas and areas damaged by the hurricane.
· In most hotels, food is being taken to guests in their rooms. In other hotels it has been possible to open a restaurant where food service is being offered.
Summary of inspection visits made to hotels in the area
Blau Marina Varadero – The hotel had to evacuate its guests yesterday morning. The Hotel received serious damage due to its location which is very exposed as it is located right on the tip of the peninsula. The main building suffered serious damage (roof, glass doors, etc.). Structural damage could be noted in the room buildings. The beach eroded due to the waves.
- Melia Marina Varadero – Some rooms have broken windows and damage to the balconies but the biggest damage can be seen in the common areas of the hotel, especially in the lobby. The hotel is located on a hill so the protection against gusts of wind is minimal.
- Grand Memories Varadero – The hotel suffered some damage due to gusts of wind. The lobby will require restoration work and it is one of the hotels that suffered major damage to the roof and common areas such as gardens and pool areas. According to reports from the General Manager approximately 40 rooms were damaged and have broken windows. In general, there is no great structural damage and the damage is considered moderate. Access to the beach is virtually blocked.
- Memories Varadero – The hotel is generally in good condition. Some recovery work will be required in corridors, public areas and some rooms on high floors where roof leaks can only be repaired by replacing the roof in its entirety. The hotel has already re-opened the lobby bar without alcoholic beverages at the moment. Recovery work is being done quickly by the hotel staff to be able to re-establish regular services as soon as possible.
- Paradisus Varadero – The hotel suffered extensive damage. Ceilings were blown off in some structures in the Family Concierge areas and will require considerable investment to recover. The main building was equally devastated; the new restaurant that was under construction near the beach collapsed.
- Royalton Hicacos – This is another hotel that suffered major damage. The beach area eroded due to the waves. The restaurant on the beach also suffered extensive damage. The main buffet area is very exposed so it suffered serious damage especially to the roof. You could see a lot of rubble in the area. The Caribeño restaurant has broken windows. The Rooms area did not seem to have major damage.
- Iberostar Varadero – The Hotel was severely affected. Part of the palapa-like straw roofs disappeared. The theater is partially destroyed. The palapa roof in some rooms was equally destroyed. The palapas around the pool were destroyed and there is debris in the area.
- Be Live Turquesa – The hotel was evacuated so it was not possible to perform a complete inspection.
- Playa de Oro – You could see broken windows in several rooms. The pool area was quite affected and the lobby area also has noticeable damage. The disco area has some parts of the roof collapsed. Landscaped areas have fallen trees. The restaurant is running and providing food service.
- ROC Arenas Doradas – The hotel seemed in good condition. Some air conditioners were ripped off the walls but light damage can be recovered relatively quickly.
- Meliá Las Antillas – The hotel is generally in good condition and without serious damage to its structures.
- Blau Varadero – The hotel has a very solid structure however being a tall building it always receives some damage when a hurricane hits the area. The lobby was in good condition however the rooms on higher floors may have suffered some damage.
- Starfish Varadero – The hotel was generally found in good condition. Lobby without noticeable damage.
- Brisas del Caribe – The rooms were badly damaged. During the inspection visit you could see several tourists waiting to be changed rooms due to leaks in broken ceilings and windows. The lobby also suffered some damage.
- Iberostar Laguna Azul – The hotel is located on a hill however it did not suffer serious damage considering its exposed location. Partial damage could be noticed on the roof of the restaurant in the beach area, some palapas destroyed.
- Starfish Cuatro Palmas – The hotel was evacuated. Some structural damage could be noticed, mainly in the ceilings of some buildings. It was not possible to make a full visit since no staff were found on the property.
In general terms that is what could be noticed in the visits made today. Tomorrow, inspections will be carried out to evaluate the extent of the damage. Today, the priority has been to be able to contact customers of Destino and make sure they are safe.
At the moment it is known that flights here for the following week have been canceled, which is considered natural due to the extent of damage in the area.
From what could be noticed today in the inspections it is estimated that the recovery time for hotels can vary from a few weeks to a few months for hotels that have been most affected. The current priority will be the restoration of electricity, water and telecommunications services.
The recovery in hotels will depend largely on the resources invested by the Cuban government, which will have much on the table due to the extensive damage suffered from Irma in the areas of Cayo Coco, Santa Clara, Camagüey and the provinces of Holguin and Matanzas. The structural damage and destruction of residential areas in the provinces of Matanzas, Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila and Camagüey is substantial.