The balmy Mexican state of Baja California Sur encompasses the Southern end of the Baja California peninsula and is perhaps the most important and prolific tourist region in the country. Home to many world-renowned resorts in lush areas such as San Jose del Cabo and lovely Cabo San Lucas, the region is a veritable paradise that has established widespread notoriety for its crystal clear turquoise waters, whimsically scenic rocky coastlines, and serene white-sand beaches. Tourists travel from around the world to experience the beauty of Mexico and the Baja Peninsula provides breathtaking travel opportunities in no short supply, but even the most heavenly tropical utopias aren't immune from the forces of Mother Nature.
Trouble in Paradise
The Category 4 Hurricane Odile made landfall on the Baja California Sur region of Mexico in mid-September of 2014, wreaking havoc on the surrounding areas. The effects of the massive storm were devastating, with high sustained winds over 125mph and heavy rains resulting in over $1 billion USD in damages, blocking roadways and causing all flights into and out of the peninsula to be cancelled. Tourists and visitors to the region were left stranded with no access to telephones or internet, and a vast majority of Baja California Sur residents were left without power. While evacuation efforts prior to the storm were largely successful, Odile was originally forecasted to track away from the mainland towards sea, but a last-minute change of course unexpectedly brought the eye of the hurricane directly over the Baja California peninsula.
Among the most poignantly affected areas the region of Cabo San Lucas sustained a significant amount of damage, especially around the coast at beachside resorts and hotels. With the help of modern technology meteorologists were able to predict the formation of the storm and all resorts were successfully evacuated when a state of emergency was declared by the local Mexican government but the effects of the hurricane were palpable. Tourism providers and accommodations were forced to shut their doors, reservations for the weeks and months following were cancelled, and the people of Los Cabos, on top of destroyed property, were left with a severely damaged bottom line to the infrastructure of their economy.
Positive Perspectives in Reconstruction
Despite enduring a serious natural disaster, a spirit of optimism has pervaded the people of the Baja peninsula and an enormously successful recuperation effort has been launched. Donning the tagline "#unstoppable", foreign volunteers and locals alike have joined forces to rebuild the thriving tourist industry of the region, which on top of providing fantastic opportunities for travelers on holiday, also bolsters the local economy and the livelihoods of countless local residents. Response has been quick and enthused, with a majority of hotels re-opened and airport functionality restored just one month after the disaster. Popular scheduled events such as the Sabor a Cabo Food and Wine Festival and the Los Cabos International Film Festival went off without a hitch. The area is continuing to attract new developments, too, as construction of two premier golf courses continues for planned openings in December. The director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board Eduardo Segura has been quoted saying "We've been hearing from many travelers and agents who have been here post-Odine that you can't even tell a storm passed through? The destination is as beautiful as ever. Los Cabos is back and better than ever - it's unstoppable."
Some select resorts have gone above and beyond the call of duty in Los Cabos' reconstruction efforts. While the most obvious damage done to buildings and properties becomes sensationalized in photos and news headlines highlighting the way tourists planning to visit might be affected, the subsistence and quality of life for local residents often falls by the wayside in popular media. Tourism in Los Cabos was indeed badly injured by the havoc of Hurricane Odine, but the deepest wounds were sustained by the families who live in the area and largely depend upon the travel industry for their livelihoods.
...And Altruistic Intentions in Recovery
The task of providing aid and much needed relief for local employees and families in Cabo San Lucas has been taken up with eagerness and warmth by fantastic resorts such as the Capella Pedregal and Esperanza. Each of these providers offer their own unique tropical beachside hideaways amidst the dramatic rocky cliffs along the Los Cabos coast and each has begun their own relief funds to support their employees who maintain the sumptuous retreats as such. Fund raised currently total over $150,000 USD between the two institutions and a passage on the Capella Pedregal website reads: "The outpouring of prayer and concern, along with questions of how contributions can be made...by vendors and by former guests of the resort has simply been overwhelming."
The Capella Pedregal Resort in Los Cabos and the Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas were hit hard by Hurricane Odine and neither project to open again until January 2015, yet they exhibit a spirit of charity and goodwill that embodies the hopefulness behind the "#unstoppable" motto. As we move into this year's holiday season, instances of kindness and benevolence such as these exhibited in the Hurricane Odine relief efforts serve as fantastic examples of how, even in times of trial, an attitude of generosity can help create a happy ending for all.