In 2012, Tulum, home of the ancient Mayan ruins, will become even more popular than ever and not because of the Mayan prophecy of 2012. Instead, 2012 is the projected year that 3,700 acres (1.500 hectares) of Tulum jungle will be excavated for the first commercial airport in Mexico financed and operated privately by government concession, even though the first projected flights may not occur for four to five years.

Airport Pros & Cons

Planned for development 102 kilometers (63 miles) south of Cancun International Airport and 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Cozumel International Airport, the new Riviera Maya International Airport is considered an important addition to the region, since the nearby town of Playa del Carmen is becoming a popular resort town for American and European travelers. Aimed at increasing air travel and improving Mexico’s economy in the southeast region, transportation officials anticipate the airport will bring 700,000 passengers in the first year and 3 million by the third year.

Riviera Maya AirportsSince tourism is the third largest source of revenue in Mexico, the new airport will stimulate economic growth by increasing tourism, resort and residential real estate development, and construction jobs. Still, local and international communities are concerned about the impacts of the airport on the environment, since it will be built just 15.8 kilometers (10 miles) from the Tulum archaeological site of ancient Mayan ruins and will consume a huge section of rainforest and resident wildlife that could eventually lead to the extinction of various plant and animal species.


Airport Development

As a result of the controversy and competitive issues, the planning and approval stages of the Riviera Maya International Airport have been delayed for a number of years, but the project ultimately received official authorization to continue. The airport will consist of the terminal building, platforms, taxiways, 3,450 meters (11,319 feet) of runway, a control tower, operational areas, a gasoline refueling station, and other related developments.

Since May 2010, development companies have been submitting bids to the Secretary of Communications and Transportation (SCT) which have been and continue to be evaluated.

The designated development company will be selected from the following approved developers once the bidding process is complete at the end of 2010 or January 2011:

• Ideal, owned by Carlos Slim
• Grupo México, owned by German Larrea
• Omega, owned by Andres Holzer
• Grupo Aeroportuario Centro Norte (OMA), owned by Víctor Bravo
• Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (GAP)
• Boston Infrastructure Investment
• TAV Airports Company

Unfortunately, development of the new Rivera Maya airport may be delayed even further (or possibly cancelled in extreme circumstances) due to the crisis in the Mexican aviation industry with the recent operational suspension of Mexicana Airlines and the cessation of seven other airlines in the past four years.

Presently, the bidding continues through January 2011, when one of the aforementioned development companies will be granted a 50-year concession to construct and operate the estimated $256 million USD ($3-5 billion MXN) airport project.

Tulum’s mayor, Marciano Dzul Caamal affirms: “Although the economic crisis may postpone the timeframe for completion, the project itself won’t be suspended.”

What is your perspective on the development of the new Riviera Maya airport in Tulum?