Isla Holbox, a small island off the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, could support the construction of up to 9,000 new hotel rooms over the next 20 to 25 years, according to a study conducted by a Canadian firm.
Stantec, a professional services company, also said that up to 12,000 new rooms could be built during the same period at Chiquilá, a small port on the north coast of Quintana Roo where ferry services operate between the mainland and Holbox.
The study was funded with private resources, the newspaper El Economista reported yesterday, adding that its conclusions will serve as the Holbox Island Advisory Council’s contribution to drawing up an environmental management plan for the Yum Balam Natural Protected Area, within which both Holbox and Chiquilá are located.
The advisory council is made up of ejidatarios (community landowners), private land owners, tourist service providers, environmental groups, academic institutions and authorities of all three levels of government, El Economista said.
The management plan, to be prepared by the Commission for Natural Protected Areas (Conanp), is due to be completed before the current federal government ends its six-year term at the end of November.
Alberto Labastida Barrios, CEO of the foundation that commissioned the Stantec study, stressed that the hotel room figures cited were maximum limits and that the development proposed would be gradual, explaining that it suggested construction phases of 3,000 rooms.
He also said the figures were contingent on there being co-management mechanisms in place with government, civil society and the business sector, adding that construction work would have to strictly comply with the law.
Despite Labastida’s reassurances, the Quintana Roo environment secretary expressed doubt that such large-scale development is viable.
Alfredo Arellano told El Economista that an additional 21,000 new hotel rooms in the area would lead to population growth of at least 400,000 people in the long term, placing further pressure on the local water supply and other basic services.
Neither the Lázaro Cárdenas municipal government, where the two destinations are located, nor the state government has the technical or financial capacity to provide those services to such a large population, he said.
The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (Cemda) said that Stantec’s study doesn’t provide any details about the environmental impact that hotel development would have on Holbox’s fragile ecosystems, including the possible effects on the supply of drinking water, the displacement of wildlife and beach erosion.
Ricardo Gómez Lozano, a regional Conanp director for the Yucatán Peninsula and Mexican Caribbean, described Stantec’s study as “one more input” in the drawing up of the Yum Balam environmental management plan. He explained that both its technical and legal viability would need to be assessed to determine whether it would inform the final plan in any way.
Development on Holbox has long been a contentious issue for a range of stakeholders in the island’s future.
Federal authorities presented a constitutional complaint before the Supreme Court in April against the urban development plan prepared by the Lázaro Cárdenas government, while Holbox residents last year rejected a federal land use plan, charging that it was authoritarian.
The island, which is around 40 kilometers long but just 1.5-2 kilometers wide, has been plagued with sewage problems, with aging and overwhelmed infrastructure to blame.
Source: El Economista (sp)