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2005-10-31 15:27:53

Most Resorts Fared Well During Storm, But Not Xanadu Beach

Despite the immense devastation by Hurricane Wilma to the island's south western settlements in Eight Mile Rock, many of the resorts in Grand Bahama reported no major damage.

In fact, when the Freeport News contacted the majority of them yesterday, the story was the same: they were all doing well as the power was back on.

There were only minor problems such as low water pressure.

Resorts such as Bell Channel Inn, Island Palm, Island Seas Resort, Ocean Reef Yacht Club, Pelican Bay, Port Lucaya Resort, Royal Islander, Royal Palm Resort and Club Fortuna were among those unscathed by Wilma's wrath.

The Westin and Sheraton at Our Lucaya, a major hotel property on the island, also had a good report. In fact, Public Relations Director Ernestine Moxyz said the only damages the resort endured was to its landscape.

Such good news will be pleasing to the Ministry of Tourism, which has been campaigning for months to promote the island of Grand Bahama as a unique touristic destination.

However, the good news did not extend to the Xanadu Beach and Marine Resort, which reported that it had suffered a number of damages.

In an interview with the Freeport News yesterday, Xanadu's Managing Director Toni Donato said damages to the hotel have been estimated to be around $3.5 million.

One could visibly see the resort's tennis court torn apart, its beach bar and grill totally destroyed, a three-foot wall in the penthouse area torn apart, newly installed glass doors in the dining-room blown in, as well as a number of shattered sliding glass doors to the rooms, which Ms. Donato claimed were brand-new and designed to withstand hurricane force winds.

"We had a bad fire here in January and we were almost finishing that, and now, the wind blew in all those windows," Ms. Donato said. "Econom-ically speaking, the island has already been so slow as far tourism is concerned. It has been very depressed. So right now we are just trying our best to keep our doors open."

The hotel, she said, had suffered severe damages last year from Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne and much of the work done to repair those damages had recently been completed. Now it seems as if even more work will have be done again so that the resort can continue to keep its doors open.

Ms. Donato said she is very disappointed with how the Government turned down the hotel's ability to receive customs exemption for much needed bedding and drapery goods.

She claimed that she had ordered the items about eight months ago and due to shipping constraints, the items have just been shipped to Grand Bahama. Despite this, she was told that duty would have to be paid on them because the exemption order had expired.

"I believe that this is just not fair because we are trying to keep our doors open. Other places are just closing, putting hundreds of people out of jobs," she said. "Here at Xanadu we have a great team that is prepared to do any and everything to keep this resort up and running.

"There needs to be more help. Government needs to help more especially if you are trying to keep people employed, then they need to assist in at least allowing the bedding and drapery to come in. Now that Hurricane Wilma has left damages as well, this resort is going to need more help than ever from the Government to help it recover.

"Its either that, or what's the alternative, have no help and close. We can't do that either, that is not fair to my staff who are really trying to work with me. I believe that once we get the power on and we are able to bring in those items that need to be cleared with Customs, this resort will be back on its feet again, it is only a matter of time before we will be fully operational."

Since the devastation of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne last year, the Ministry has been desperately seeking to improve the tourist product on the island, with its main aim to provide additional accommodation for visitors after the closure of the Royal Oasis resort which provided some 954 rooms.

Community and Government leaders have also come forth stating that Grand Bahama is poised for a great economic boost as several announcements were made of proposed projects that would bring a breath of fresh air here.

By LISA S. KING, Freeport News Reporter

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