It’s easy to be negative about the rapid changes happening in the Tulum area. I recently wrote about the mixed feelings I myself have about so much change in that area.
But even with these mixed feelings, I can’t help but marvel at the progress and potential of the new Tulum airport.
This airport was first conceived more than a decade ago. I remember when the local municipality actually put up official signs with arrows pointing to the yet-to-be constructed airport, only for the project to subsequently be shelved for many years.
This time around, it’s real. The airport has been built at lightning speed, and next month it will be up and running after less than three years of construction.
It will be easy to criticize the start up. Most certainly there will be things that won’t work, and in today’s “everything is recorded on people’s cell phones” world, the initial glitches will be shared quickly. Others, including many people who live in big wealthy cities far away from Tulum, will relentlessly criticize the environmental impact of the airport and lament the changes it will bring. Still others will point to examples of corruption that likely took place during the construction.
I don’t mean to minimize any of these issues, but I do think that it’s important to also focus on the positives that will come from the airport. It’s important to remember that this part of Mexico is extremely poor. Generations of families have lived in poverty or had to move to other parts of Mexico or the United States in search of employment and a better standard of living.
The construction of the airport has resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs. The completed airport will have thousands of direct jobs and create tens of thousands of indirect jobs. These are jobs that allow families to stay in their community, or their state, or their country without having to leave. These are jobs that are consistent and predictable which allow families to plan for their future and invest in themselves and their community. That’s a very, very big deal.
In the past few months, airlines have begun announcing new flights to the airport. First came the domestic airlines, with Viva Aerobus and Volaris announcing flights to Tulum starting in December from several major cities throughout Mexico – including Tijuana, Mexico City, Monterrey, and Guadalajara.
In just the past few weeks, four major airlines from the United States have announced an unprecedented amount of new direct flights to Tulum starting in March.
First came Delta Airlines, announcing daily flights from Atlanta. Then came Spirit Airlines with flights from Orlando and Miami. Then just this week American Airlines announced flights from Dallas, Miami, and Charlotte and United Airlines announced flights from Los Angeles, Newark, Chicago, and Houston. More announcements are certainly on the way soon.
Think about that for a moment. Tulum went from being a two-hour drive from the Cancún airport to having direct flights from more than a dozen major cities in the U.S. and Mexico. Well over 100 million people now have direct flight access to Tulum.
Imagine the economic impact that will have on tens if not hundreds of thousands of families. Of course, with this growth will come other problems, but as the saying goes, “first or second world problems are much preferred over third world problems.”
I am more bullish than ever on Mexico’s future. The country has a historic opportunity to raise its standard of living through projects like the Tulum airport, the Maya Train, the Isthmus de Tehuantepec trade corridor, and other infrastructure and nearshoring projects throughout the country.
We cannot forget that nearly 40% of Mexicans still live in poverty, and that there is a long way to go to improve the health care, education, and housing of millions of its citizens. Projects like the Tulum airport are exactly those that can help improve these problems and should be celebrated.
Travis Bembenek is the CEO of Mexico News Daily and has been living, working or playing in Mexico for over 27 years.