TULUM, Mexico – The upcoming launch of Tulum International Airport in December is being hailed as a significant milestone by the local hotel industry. However, it also raises concerns about potential shifts in market demographics, increased pressure on the region’s infrastructure and security, and the ever-expanding unregulated vacation rental sector.
David Ortiz, the leader of Tulum’s hotel sector, acknowledges the positive impact that the airport’s operation, along with the confirmed flight schedules, will have on occupancy rates and the destination’s growth, starting from the upcoming winter season. This development is seen as a favorable response to the anticipated decline in tourism during the next few months.
Ortiz expressed confidence in the upcoming winter season, especially with the airport’s accessibility to the region. Nevertheless, he noted that some of the announced flights are budget-friendly, potentially attracting tourists with lower purchasing power. It’s worth mentioning that Tulum currently boasts the highest room rates in the Mexican Caribbean.
The introduction of budget flights could potentially alter the visitor profile, leading to concerns. Ortiz stated, “We need to wait and see. We hope it caters to all sectors, but there is also a concern that it might bring less economic contribution.”
Tulum is already grappling with its own unique pressures and challenges, primarily stemming from the uncontrolled growth of vacation rentals. The area has witnessed the emergence of more than 10,000 rooms on a single platform, exacerbating the strain on local infrastructure. This rampant expansion is outpacing the development and infrastructure upgrades, further intensified by Tulum’s remarkable 22% growth rate, which has left over 6,500 families living in subpar housing conditions due to a lack of adequate housing options.
From the hotel sector’s perspective, these issues generate a mix of anticipation and concern. While they advocate for a level playing field, calling for vacation rentals to be subject to the same tax regulations as hotels, they also stress the importance of ensuring equivalent safety measures. This includes fire safety approvals from civil protection authorities, as unfortunate incidents, such as reports of thefts in vacation rentals, have marred the destination’s reputation. When such incidents occur, they often tarnish the destination’s image, failing to distinguish between vacation rentals and established hotels.
Tulum’s hotel sector eagerly anticipates the positive impact of the new international airport while remaining vigilant about the potential consequences of budget flights and the unchecked growth of vacation rentals. Striking a balance between accessibility, economic growth, and responsible tourism remains a critical challenge for the region as it continues to evolve.