Floods devastate an already bankrupt and blood-soaked Acapulco

Sat Oct 19, 2013 9:48am EDT
 
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By Gabriel Stargardter

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) - Gangland violence and looming bankruptcy had already all but obliterated the glitter of Acapulco before catastrophic flooding last month drove crocodiles onto the streets of the Mexican beach resort and turned much of it into a mud bath.

Once a playground for the rich and famous, by 2012 Acapulco had become the murder capital of Mexico, mired in a cycle of brutal slayings, kidnappings and extortion as drug gangs fought for control of the former pirate cove.

Acapulco was still battling to contain the violence when in September it was hit hard by the worst storm damage ever in Mexico. The rains swamped the city's airport, stranding thousands of tourists who are crucial to the health of the local economy.

Roads to Acapulco closed, and the average hotel occupancy rate fell to under 20 percent in the weeks after the disaster. The road is open again and much of the mess has been cleaned up, but that rate has yet to recover. Last week it hovered at less than half the 2012 average of 49 percent - a record low.

Weeks later, Acapulco's hotels have bought up ads in national newspapers offering two-for-one deals. The message is simple: Even more than sending food parcels, the best way to help is to come spend money.

Tourism makes up more than two-thirds of the surrounding state of Guerrero's income, and with many hotel rooms empty, the city's finances in tatters and drug violence widespread, the resort faces a hard slog to recover its reputation.

During the rains, hotels served as emergency shelters. Two weeks later, when Reuters paid a midweek visit, water was still off or rationed at many landmark establishments. At the 180-room Hotel El Cano, only about 20 rooms were occupied.

"Let's hope this is as bad as it gets," said El Cano's manager, Pedro Haces. "We've never had occupation rates like these." It relies now on national tourism and still gets visitors because it's the closest beach resort to the capital, a four-hour drive instead of an expensive flight to others spots like Cancun.   Continued...

 
A collapsed motel lies in the water at Coyuca de Benitez on the outskirts of Acapulco, October 2, 2013. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido