April 6, 2024
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The Latest on Tulum’s Airport: What You Need to Know

The tourism industry in Tulum has experienced significant growth over the years. With its stunning beaches, clear blue waters, and natural beauty, Tulum is a favorite destination for tourists from around the world. However, with the increasing number of visitors, the need for a new airport in Tulum has become apparent.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the new Tulum airport that is currently under construction. We will discuss the features of the new airport, the benefits it will bring to the region, and the expected completion date.

Get Ready to Fly: Tulum Airport Inauguration Date

The Latest on Tulum's Airport: What You Need to Know

The Secretariat of National Defense of Mexico (SEDENA) has revealed progress and details regarding the construction of the new Tulum airport, which is intended to serve as an alternative gateway to the Mexican Caribbean due to the saturation of the Cancun airport.

According to government sources, the airport is expected to begin operating in 2024, prior to the end of the current administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The new facilities are anticipated to handle around 5.5 million passengers annually, with the airport capable of managing up to 32,000 annual operations during its initial stages. The airport will have 13 positions for commercial planes offering national and international flights.

SEDENA expects that 75% of passengers arriving at the airport will come from outside Mexico, which sets the Tulum airport apart from another major airport project of the Mexican government, the Felipe Ángeles International Airport in Mexico City, which, almost a year after its inauguration, only has five international routes, all of which are seasonal.

“This project will satisfy the growing demand of passengers visiting this tourist destination in the southern part of the Riviera Maya. Its infrastructure and operational potential classify it as a Category 4 ECO airport, meaning that all aircraft arriving and departing from our country can operate at this airport,” said Gustavo Vallejo, resident engineer of the General Directorate of Engineers at SEDENA, to Forbes.

Location of Tulum’s New Airport

The Latest on Tulum's Airport: What You Need to Know

Developed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Tulum International Airport will be located on land belonging to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, in the Chunyaxché ejido and will be built on an area of 1,200 hectares. The airport access, on the other hand, will be located within the municipality, but negotiations are currently ongoing. AMLO announced that a new company will be created to control the new airport, which will be managed by the army and will operate the Tulum terminal, the Santa Lucía terminal, and the Tren Maya. The income generated from this new infrastructure will be used to cover pensions and retirements for the armed forces.

The 10 communities that make up the ejido (Chun On, Chuyah, Chumpón, Muyil, Yodzonot, etc.) will benefit directly in terms of infrastructure, tourism, and the economy, among other areas.

According to reports from the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP), the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) has already spent the first 237.6 million pesos on the feasibility studies for the Tulum airport.

SEDENA submitted the budget request to the SHCP in February of this year for a total of 12 studies, which include cost-benefit analysis, economic feasibility and financial evaluation, the orographic and obstacle survey, the master plan, topographic studies, development of engineering for the control tower and passenger terminal, comprehensive solid waste management, social impact, archaeological salvage, legal feasibility, architectural planning for the terminal building, and a military city to support and provide services to the civil airport. SEDENA has already spent these resources as of the second quarter.

In addition to a military city, the Tulum airport could become a logistics center for cargo, as the army proposes identifying private sector participation schemes in the future to reduce project risks and costs.

The Minds Behind Tulum’s New Air Gateway

The Latest on Tulum's Airport: What You Need to Know

Coparmex supports the construction of the airport terminal as it could boost tourism in the Riviera Maya, although the Federal Government has not included the participation of private companies.

“From Playa del Carmen to Cancun airport, it’s 60km, and it will be 20km to Tulum airport. In the case of Cancun, which has a saturated airport, logically Tulum’s airport will help to alleviate the saturation and allow for more flights to grow,” said the president of Coparmex Maya Riviera, Marc Pujol Folch.

The Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) is responsible for the construction of the airport on the Tulum military airbase, following the construction of the Felipe Angeles International Airport (AIFA) which opened in March to serve Mexico City. In early October, the cyber activist group Guacamaya managed to infiltrate the Armed Forces systems and extract millions of emails.

Among them is a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that warned Sedena that the construction of the new airport was not as attractive as the Cancun international terminal due to its lower hotel room offerings and public infrastructure such as roads.

However, Forbes Mexico reported on Monday that an IATA market study, which it had access to, shows that low-cost airlines from the US and Canada see the Tulum project as a potential source of opportunities.

“Low-cost airlines (Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, Jetblue, Alaska Airlines, Volaris and VivaAerobus) show an interest in the new Tulum Airport and are willing to operate there at lower rates than in Cancun, with slot flexibility, airport expansion flexibility, and ease of operation,” the document states.

As the works are directed by the Armed Forces, there is little or no transparency regarding progress, which until now has not included any participation from the private sector.

How Much Will Tulum’s New Airport Cost?

The Latest on Tulum's Airport: What You Need to Know

The Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA), Luis Cresencio Sandoval, has announced that the budget allocated for the Tulum International Airport during 2022 amounts to 11.031 billion Mexican pesos.

During the morning press conference held by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Secretary presented a report on SEDENA’s expenses and explained that this amount is part of the allocations for five priority projects led by the army, which increased from 93.67 billion pesos in 2019 to 104.107 billion pesos in 2022.

The budget for these five priority projects has been increasing since 2019 when 93.67 billion pesos were allocated. In 2020, an additional 94.028 billion pesos were budgeted, and in 2021, 112.557 billion pesos were allocated.

The five priority projects include the National Guard, the AIFA Company (which administers the Tulum, Chetumal, and Palenque airports, as well as the Maya Train), the Welfare Bank, and the construction of the Tulum airport.

Regarding the Tulum airport, the 11.031 billion pesos allocated only correspond to the year 2022, as no resources were allocated to the project between 2019 and 2021, according to the report presented by the Secretary of SEDENA.

Apart from the amount disclosed during the morning press conference held by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday, November 8, there is no other indication of the total cost of the project, as it is not included in the proposal for the 2023 Federal Expenditure Budget.

In the environmental impact assessment for the airport submitted to the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) on September 2, SEDENA reserves the total cost of the project, which, like the case of the Maya Train, has already begun with the deforestation of the jungle without authorization from the secretariat.

The Environmental Impact of Tulum’s New Airport

The Latest on Tulum's Airport: What You Need to Know

What is known so far is that the construction of this airport involves the felling of at least 1.3 million trees of more than 60 different species in the central area of Quintana Roo.

According to the Environmental Impact Statement, the species to be cut down correspond to all tree and shrub elements that have a timber use (sawing, posts, firewood, etc.).

“If the use or type of use is considered, they can be classified as commercial timber (sawing), Palizada (construction), Biomass and Common Tropics. Of the total estimated volume to be removed, 52.0% is concentrated in 13 species with potential for commercialization for sawing (103,231.94 m3), for Palizada 22 species that concentrate 44.6% (94,482.41 m3), for biomass 10 species that concentrate only 4.5% (9,537.52 m3), and of tropical species 17 species with a volume of 2,286.48 m3 representing 1.1% of the total,” the document reads.

The Environmental Impact Statement anticipates 43 environmental impacts (38 adverse and five beneficial) from the construction of the airport terminal, and that there will be disturbances to fauna due to noise pollution, habitat destruction, and the destruction of the abiotic environment.

The document also refers to the fact that the airport and the complementary military base will be built on an area of 12,000 square kilometers (km2), that is, 1,200 hectares, and will have an access road that will occupy 3.2119 km2 (321.19 hectares) over an area of medium jungle.

In total, the project area totals 1,521.19 hectares, in the Chunyaxché ejido lands, in the municipality of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the so-called Mayan zone, in the central part of the state of Quintana Roo.


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