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Trains not planes along the Mayan Riviera

April 14, 2010

Good news for the environment today, after Protea Hotels announced that they intend to withdraw their application to build a 144-bed hotel and conference centre in the Chiawa Game Management Area in Zambia.

Members of the UK’s Ethical Tour Operators Group have been lobbying against this, along with other environmental groups, as the land that Proteo planned to build on is just across the river from the Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site and known as one of Africa’s best game-viewing regions.

It’s always kind of amazing when a large company backs down in the face of environmental concerns. It’s a tragedy though, that protesters haven’t managed to win the day in Tulum, Mexico. Felipe Calderon, the President of Mexico, announced on the 22nd March that plans to construct an International Airport, with the capacity for 3 million passengers per year, are to go ahead. This is, I think, disastrous news for this stunning and thus-far, largely unspoilt region just 80 miles away from Cancun.

Coming soon to Tulum?

Coming soon to Tulum?

Cancun already handles around 12 million air passengers each year, it’s only 90 minutes drive away from Tulum and certainly has the capacity to deal with those extra passengers. The site of one of the world’s best-preserved Mayan ruins should clearly not be minutes away from an international airport.

I found a working paper from King’s College London, ‘Coping, Governance and Deevelopment: The Climate Change Adaption Triad which made for interesting and rather alarming reading. Development in Tulum over the past two years has already taken away 77 hectares of mangrove and forest which used to protect the town from hurricanes, a second phase is also planned which, “…comprises 450 ha; including a mega golf course that would extend up to the beach, and a grid of water channels resembling an inland (Venice-style) marina. If fully executed, this project would dramatically increase the exposure of Tulum to hurricanes by degrading the ecosystem services for coastal protection.”

It seems like a no-brainer that measures are being taken which will leave Tulum vulnerable to environmental damage. However, it’s not too late. The bidding process begins tomorrow for Tulum International, nothing has been built yet, there’s still a chance to change opinion.

All this comes on a day when AITO has rejected calls for increased airport capacity across the UK, calling instead for a ‘back to basics’ policy of ensuring that planes fly at capacity. Add to that the Conservative party’s latest manifesto which suggests scrapping plans for a third runway at Heathrow and instead investing in high-speed rail links. With that in mind, doesn’t it makes sense to abandon plans for an airport and instead look at alternatives?


Really? You want to put an airport near here?

Some of the most amazing rail journies in the world are along coastal routes, so what about a Mayan Riviera Rail Explorer that links Cancun Airport with resort towns like Puerto Moreles and Playa del Carmen along the way?

So, what do you think? Is Tulum’s proposed International Airport a mistake? Would a rail-link work instead? Let me know..

Thanks to for the image.

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