WP – APR 1 1973 – 1927
Yucatan Plans With Acapulco as a guide.
By Marlise Simons.
Special to The Washington Post
CANCUN ISLAND, Mexico. “That´s where the Club Mediterranee will be built,” the guide said, waving down the empty beach, “and this is for the Camino Real.” He swung towards a tiny deserted peninsula, then scrambled over a sand dune, “Over there, on those Islands in the lagoon, we’re going to have a golf course.”
In the minds of a few imaginative guides, at least, the new resort of Cancun on Mexico´s Yucatan Coast is already built and booming.
“A tree lined avenue will run along the island.” Our guide went on “with the beach and hotels on one side and the lagoon on the other. By 1980, almost half a million people will be coming here every year.”
But at the moment, there Is nothing Nothing, that is, apart from the main attractions of Cancun: 10 miles of dazzling white beach and 10 shades of emerald green sea. The reason for this ambitious project —to built a resort out of of nothing— it that Mexico desperately needs additional foreign exchange to maintain its present economic growth.
And since the Yucatan currently receives only 2 per cent of total visitors to the Caribbean region, the decision was taken to compete more energetically for the lucrative Eastern Seaboard tourist market.
The choice of Cancun over similar sites on Mexico´s coast is that it has the appeal of an island and the advantages of the mainland. In fact, it is a long narrow island, separated from the mainland by a salt water lagoon and joined to it by a 200-foot bridge. Construction and other costs are sharply reduced because material can be driven onto the resort. But visitors still feel they are on an island.
From the tourist’s point of view, Cancun’s beaches, sea and weather can match those of any other tropical haven, while its skin-diving and fishing are probably better. Cancun also offers the extra dimension of the Yucatan’s remarkable pre-Columbian culture. An easy drive from the island and the visitor finds himself in the Mayan ruins of Chichen-Itza or Tulum or the newly discovered site of Coba. And on the Peninsula, the artisan work of the modern-day Mayans will tempt even the most determined “sun-and-sea” holiday maker.
Perhaps the most surprising thing, however, is that Cancun is nearer to Washington, New York and even Miami than Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Haiti, Jamaica or any other regional resort except the Bahamas. There are even plans to start a hydrofoil service from Cancun to the U.S. mainland.
The Pacific resort of Acapulco is being used as the model for Cancun, but every care is being take to avoid the mistakes of that boom town. Acapulco offers Mexico its only experience in attracting large-scale tourism and dealing with the package tour industry but it also illustrates the dangers of an inadequate infrastructure and uncontrolled growth.
Planning is therefore emphasized for Cancun. The entire island is being zoned and all construction (size as well as style) must be approved by the government´s executing agency, the INFRATUR Department of the Bank of Mexico. Unlike Acapulco, water and electricity supplies and drainage should be adequate for the new resort, while the town of Cancun will be built to anticipate the inevitable influx of Jobless seeking work in hotels and restaurants.
As with Acapulco, it will be difficult to avoid an “other” Cancun of poverty and slums. although a dormitory town of 70000 inhabitants is currently being planned. The “other” Acapulco, however, already has a population of over 150000.
In the construction of Cancun, the Mexican government is using a $21.5 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank and $25.6 million of its own money to provide a basic infrastructure of roads, public utilities and an international airport, some 10 miles away on the mainland. But most of the hotels are to be built by private interests
To circumvent a constitutional ban on the ownership of costal lands by foreigners, a new scheme of trusts will enable non-Mexicans to take 99-year leases and operate shore-side properties as if they were the owners.
The first small hotel should be operating by July this year and by the time the infrastructure work is completed in December 1974, at least 750 Hotel rooms should be available in Cancun. During the following 10 years, another 4,000 hotel rooms should be built to accommodate an estimated 455,000 annual visitors. A second 10-year building period will complete construction on the island and provide a total of 10,000 rooms for over one million tourists each year.
All this, of course, is what is being planned. At the moment, however, construction is moving slowly due to a shortage of manual labor in the region. Several hotel groups have taken out options on lots, but they want to be doubly sure that the project is “go” before confirming. Once options have been confirmed construction must begin within 90 days.
Even before the resort exists, government planners are also having to struggle with airline routes. Several hotels are being built in partnership with U.S. carriers, notably Braniff, American Airlines and Eastern, but even this cannot guarantee approval of the best routes by the US Civil Aviation Board. Perhaps, more than anything, solution of this problem is critical to the success of Cancun, since most visitors will be flying there on package tours directly from U.S. cities.
Nevertheless, these problems (an initial reluctance to invest and air route assignments) were expected and, so far at least, work on the infrastructure is only marginally behind schedule. So, if all goes well, the latest “just discovered” Caribbean paradise will be launched in the most competitive tourist market in the world within two years. And Cancun must start fighting to be remembered.
The writer free lances from Mexico.
Fuente: I.S.L.A. Information Services on Latin America (Oakland, Calif.). – 1973. Página 24.
Traduccíón: 1973: “Y esto es para el Camino Real”.