lifestyle, travel This is Cozumel

By February 2006, 87 per cent of hotel rooms in Cozumel will be available, said Gabriela Verduzco, director of the island's Hotel Association, in an interview with this week.

Verduzco said that although only some 15 per cent of rooms belonging to hotels in the association are open now, January will see rapid progress with 2,332 rooms becoming available again by the end of that month.

She explained that the timing was good as December and January are not typically such busy months, with occupancy usually around 50 per cent. The season really starts to pick up in February and March, when hotels are usually more than 90 per cent full.

Repairs are going well and hotels that lost beach to Hurricane Wilma are trucking in sand from dunes in other parts of Cozumel. The process is being overseen by Semarnat, the Mexican Federal Environmental Agency.

More flights, including charters, will also be available. Vacation packages can already be booked for dates after 31 January with travel agents and websites such as Expedia.

Verduzco also explained that no hotel employees had been dismissed since the hurricane and many hotels have taken the opportunity to give staff extra training, including courses in hospitality management by American Express, who visited the island especially.

See our 'Places To Stay' section for hotel information and contact details.