With Cancun still recovering from a brutal hurricane season, there's a crunch for hotel rooms in warm-weather destinations this holiday season.

Although almost half of Cancun's 27,700 rooms are expected to be reopened by mid-December, tourists are trying to crowd in elsewhere throughout the Caribbean, Florida -- and even as far as Hawaii.

With occupancy up, so are prices. At the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables in Florida, demand has risen between 15 percent and 25 percent from last year, and rates are about 7 percent higher. Martineau Bay Resort & Spa on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, has seen a 20 percent bump in bookings after Hurricane Wilma hit in late Oct. The Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas has picked up several large groups that were displaced from Cancun and now has 10 percent more leisure traffic than usual this December. Prices are up about 4 percent. Travelocity, the online travel agency owned by Sabre Holdings Corp., has seen big increases in holiday season bookings to destinations that rival Cancun -- including 30 percent more to Maui compared to last year, over 50 percent more to Jamaica and 32 percent more to Tucson, Arizona.

Contributing to the crunch is the fact that -- even before the fallout from Cancun -- peak-season luxury travel has never been busier and room rates for the coveted spots are approaching all-time highs. Resort rates are up by between 5 percent and 8 percent this winter, says Scott Berman, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers's Hospitality and Leisure Advisory Group. Higher operating costs at hotels, particularly for utilities, are also pushing prices higher. Furthermore, only 81 percent of Grand Cayman's hotel rooms have reopened following a devastating 2004 hurricane season, and much of New Orleans remains off-limits to holiday-makers.

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