Info on Cancun


Cancún is a coastal city in Mexico's eastern most state, Quintana Roo. It is the municipal seat of Benito Juárez municipality and a world renowned tourist resort.

Geography


The average temperature in Cancún is 27° C (80° F) with more than 240 days of sunshine, and rain is rare. The beaches are almost 100 percent limestone; the porous quality of the limestone makes for cool sand even under the intense tropical sun. Cancún is divided into two parts: The narrow 23-kilometer-long (14-mile) island section (Cancún Island) is lined with modern beachfront hotels surrounded by the Bahía de Mujeres (Bay of Women), the Caribbean Sea, and the Nichupte and Bojorquez lagoons. The mainland downtown commercial section (Cancún City), connected to the island by two bridges, has broad avenues lined with whitewashed shops, restaurants, and hotels.

History


In the early 1950s Cancún was an almost unpopulated and undeveloped island just off the Caribbean Sea coast of the Yucatán peninsula, home to three caretakers of a coconut plantation and small Pre-Columbian ruins of the Maya civilization. The government of Mexico decided to develop a tourist resort on Cancún which was originally financed by a USD $27 million loan from the International Development Bank. A causeway was built to link Cancún to the mainland, and an international airport was built, along with what was at first a model city for workers, complete with housing, schools and medical facilities. On the opposite side of the island from the Caribbean Sea is Nichupte Lagoon, which is used for boat and snorkelling tours of the area.
Development of Cancún started in 1970 and grew rapidly in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the original very sensible master plan was repeatedly modified and, on the mainland, often ignored. According to long-time resident Jules Siegel (author of the "Cancun User's Guide" and translator of Fernando Martí's "Cancun, Fantasy of Bankers"), municipal authorities have struggled to provide public services for the constant influx of people, as well as to control squatters and irregular developments, which now occupy an estimated ten to fifteen percent of the mainland area on the fringes of the city, he says.
Despite initial skepticism that forced the Mexican government to finance the first eight hotels, Cancun soon attracted investors from all over the world, but approximately 70% of the Hotel Zone properties are owned by Mexicans, many of them local residents, Siegel says. The figure is close to 100% for the mainland. Some observers believe that the resort is foreign-owned because they are confused by the hotel operating companies, which are international companies that supply administration and marketing services. They do not usually own the hotels themselves. Even outlets of restaurant chains such as McDonald's and Domino's Pizza are Mexican-owned.
The city has grown rapidly over the past thirty years to become a city of approximately half a million residents, covering the former island and the nearby mainland. There are actually very few true 'cancunenses' (people originally from Cancún) because of the rate at which the resort and its service areas grew. Most people living here are from mainland Mexico and a growing number are from the rest of America and Europe.

Environmental concerns


Although some environmentalists claim that Cancún is an environmental disaster, Siegel says that is not true. There has obviously been environmental damage and the situation could deteriorate rapidly, he reports, but at present (February 2005) Cancún's main problem is a breakdown of garbage collection and disposal as a result of political conflicts that will hopefully be solved by a new administration elected February 6, 2005. Sewage treatment is another danger point, he says. Although approximately 75% of the city has public sewer lines, many homes rely on septic tanks. The underground water table is beginning to show symptoms of contamination, but by the standards of most populated areas in the United States the water is still relatively clean.

Tourism in Cancún


In Cancún there are about 140 hotels with 24,000 rooms and 380 restaurants. Four million visitors arrive each year in an average of 190 flights daily. The hotel zone is one of the most exclusive internationally, with upmarket restaurants, bars, and the like which have catered for quite a number of the rich and famous. The hotel zone tends to be rather expensive as it is aimed at visitors and relies on the all inclusive hotels to keep them all in this area allowing prices to soar. Downtown is home to less expensive places to shop like Walmart, Comercial Mexicana and Soriana, not to mention several flea markets like the one in the hotel zone.
Around March and April, Cancun experiences a flood of college students (usually from the United States) who travel to Cancun to party. For just about all of these students, drinking alcohol is usually the reason why they come to Cancun. The drinking age in Cancun is 18; while in the United States, it is 21.
Downtown Cancún gives us a different aspect. There are also many clubs for all types of people, including gay clubs like Karamba or Glow, but the hotels are more accessible to all types of travelers, including some with lower rates. International brands in Downtown area are Radisson Hacienda Cancun, Best Western Plaza Caribe, Oasis America.
Ruins in CancúnThe temperature of the city is warm, moderated by the marine breeze which circulates through its avenues. The temperatures are typically between 26°C and 36°C (78.8°F and 96.8°F).
Cancún's hotel zone also has an interactive aquarium where visitors can see the marine diversity of the area, swim with dolphins and feed sharks. Here and there in the hotel zone are some ancient ruins.
The main language in Cancún is Spanish, although English is widely spoken throughout the tourist areas. Mayan dialects are also spoken between some workers and people born in the Yucatán peninsula.
Cancún is served by Cancún International Airport.
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A DESERTED ISLAND


Four decades ago, Cancún was a deserted island and few even knew of its existence.
Located in a nearly forgotten region of the Caribbean, it consisted of a series of sand dunes in the shape of a number “7" –some parts of which were only 20 meters (66 ft) wide– separated from the mainland by two narrow canals that opened out on to a huge lagoon system.
The coast was comprised of marshes, mangroves, virgin jungle and unexplored beaches. Even its name was not clear: some maps called it “Kankun” (a single word written with the two “k’s”), which means “pot of snakes” or “nest of snakes” in Maya.
However, in the first Infratur documents (a government agency existing prior to the creation of Fonatur), it is written as two words, “Kan Kun,” and occasionally, “Can Cún” (in its Spanish form). The current name of “Cancún” is a natural phonetic development that facilitates pronunciation... or maybe it developed by mere chance.

IN SEARCH OF SITES FOR TOURISM DEVELOPMENT


During the 60's, studies of the tourism industry at a national and international level revealed its importance as a source of revenue and new jobs and the positive impact that it could have on the economic development of marginal areas of the world.
Since there was no long term tourism policy or financial resources to develop the sector, one of the Mexican government’s priorities was to promote existing tourism destinations (Acapulco, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo and Cozumel), diversify tourism products and seek out other possibilities for development based on the avante garde idea of the time: building integral tourism-based cities from scratch.
After evaluating dozens of potential locations, at the beginning of 1969, the Bank of Mexico began development of five integral tourism destinations: Ixtapa, Los Cabos, Loreto, Bahías de Huatulco and Cancún.

THE CHOICE: ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES


Despite certain disadvantages– distance from the region’s major cities (1,820 kilometers / 1,131 miles from Mexico City, 380 kilometers /236 miles from Chetumal, 321 km / 199 miles from Merida and 172 km / 107 miles from Valladolid); deficient highway infrastructure (the Chetumal-Puerto Juarez coastal highway was unfinished; airport located far away); lack of available, trained manpower; and non-existent local capital–there were important reasons to choose Cancún.
Those that weighed heaviest (besides the natural beauty of the area and proximity to some of world’s most famous Mayan sites), was the need to successfully compete with tourism destinations in the Caribbean Basin (which at that time received around four million tourists per year); take advantage of the area’s magnificent beaches and foster development of recently-created Quintana Roo.
The Territory of Quintana Roo (which still had not been admitted to the Union) was linked to the rest of the country by the Merida-Valladolid-Puerto Juarez highway (built in the previous Presidential term). It had four border areas classified as Duty Free zones: Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Xcalak and Chetumal (a city whose prosperity was derived from imports) and a very precarious economic situation.
Under these circumstances, the creation of Cancún as an integral tourism destination was seen as an economic detonator for the region and a way to channel the migratory flow of its inhabitants.

THE MASTER PLAN


The Cancún Project was officially approved in 1969, but didn’t begin until January, 1970, when the first Infratur technicians arrived. The initial objectives of the project were to open up a road from Puerto Juarez to the island, design a Master Development Plan and build a provisional air strip (located in the area designated for city development, at the site of present-day Kabah Avenue, in front of the Ecological Park).
The basic Master Plan called for three items:
1) build a tourism zone without permanent residential areas, like a tourism corridor (given the characteristics of the land itself), with hotel installations, shopping centers, golf courses and marinas;
2) build a residential zone for permanent residents. In other words, an integral city, in the northern part of the territorial reserve, with residential and commercial areas, roads, public buildings, schools, hospitals and markets; and
3) build an international airport to one side of the Cancún-Tulum highway (under construction at the time), on the mainland south of the island.
Hotel Zone development was, in turn, divided into three phases. The first comprised the area from BahÌa de Mujeres to Punta Cancún and the coast up to the inner limit of Bojorquez Lagoon; the second phase ran from Bojorquez Lagoon to Punta Nizuc, and the third from Punta Nizuc south, to the limits of the territorial reserve.
Design and segmentation of the Hotel Zone followed the concept of “supermanzanas” (subdivisions), architecturally known as the “broken plate diagram”: huge city blocks, separated by large avenues. The first segment of Cancún’s urban area concentrated on what would become the city’s main street, Tulum Avenue. City Hall was built on the largest lot in this area.
The first infrastructure projects for drinking water (sink 16 wells, at a distance of 30 kilometers / 18.6 miles), sewerage (dig more than 100 kilometers / 62 miles of ditches for sewers connected to a treatment plant) and electricity (bring in power lines from Tizimin, Yucatán, 150 kilometers / 93 miles away) cannot even compare to the scope and difficulty of the engineering projects required to create the Hotel Zone.
The equivalent of 240 hectares / 593 acres of topsoil was brought in by trucks: 100 (247 acres) for the golf course, 60 (148 acres) for lot 18 A and 60 for the area surrounding the El Rey ruins and fill for over 80 hectares /198 acres (65 ha / 161 acres to widen the island and 15 ha / 37 acres for the airport road). Some 372,000 m3 (13,137.055 ft3) of mangrove systems were dredged to form Siegfried and Nichupté Channels to improve water exchange between the sea and the lagoons.
The first hotels opened in 1974 (Playa Blanca, Bojorquez and Cancún Caribe); the international airport was inaugurated with 2,600 meters of runway and operating capacity for wide-cabin airplanes; and Infratur and Foqatur government agencies were merged to form the National Foundation for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur).
The same year, Quintana Roo was granted statehood and the Cancún project (under the Isla Mujeres district government) became part of Benito Juarez district.

DIFFICULT TIMES


There are four distinct phases in Cancún’s development, characterized by times of growth and crises:
from 1969 to 1975;
from 1976 to 1983;
from 1984 to 1989; and
from 1990 to 2001.
At some time during these periods of growth, seemingly insurmountable problems darkened expectations for the area– a lack of regular flights, the 1982 devaluation, natural disasters and, more recently, the collapse of North American tourism due to the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Neverthless, the city has demonstrated its ability to bounce back on each occasion.

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT


By 1976, Cancún was firmly established as a tourism destination: 18,000 inhabitants, stable migratory patterns, more than 5,000 jobs, 1,500 hotel rooms and 100,000 visitors in the Winter 76-77 season.
The sudden spurt of growth prior to 1982 (5,700 hotel rooms, 70,000 inhabitants and Cancún had become the largest city in Quintana Roo) caused an ecological imbalance in the lagoon system, requiring corrective measures.
From 1983 to 1988, Cancún registered explosive growth with more than 12,000 hotel rooms and another 11,000 projected or under construction and more than 200,000 inhabitants.

MATURITY AND RISE OF CANCÚN


From 1989 to date, Cancún has been the nation’s most dynamic city. It contributes a large percentage of Mexico’s tourism-related revenue and accounts for much of Quintana Roo’s gross domestic product. There are currently more than 500,000 inhabitants in the urban area. Cancún has become the country’s largest tourism resort and is the most prosperous city in the Yucatán Peninsula. It is also the Caribbean’s premier destination, surpassing even the Bahamas and Puerto Rico.
The future is promising. Puerto Cancún, a huge, deluxe marina with low-impact hotels, is projected for development north of the Hotel Zone. To the southwest, toward the airport, more hotels, golf courses and a modern hospital are scheduled for construction. In addition, major resort development is contemplated for the 131-kilometer / 81 miles Cancún-Tulum tourism corridor.
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MEXICO -- Government officials and investors created the city less than 30 years ago to attract the growing market of sun-seekers from abroad.
Cancún boasts terrific infrastructure for receiving and transporting environmental travelers to less congested areas, such as the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Ría Lagartos, and Celestún. It is also home to regional environmental groups, and can be a pleasant place to spend a few days.
The city currently receives 3 million visitors a year. Vendors at tourism kiosks generally receive a commission, so they rarely have information on community-based or eco-friendly projects. Don't accept the jet ski and underwater submarine trips as the best the state of Quintana Roo has to offer!

A BRIEF HISTORY


To better understand the glamorous image Cancún has sculpted for itself, it's necessary to review its relatively short history. In 1968 the only town in the area was the small fishing village of Puerto Juárez, population 500. That year FONATUR, the national tourism development agency, announced that it would develop a megaresort in this relatively new federal territory (Quintana Roo became a state in 1973). The first resort hotel opened in 1974, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The original management plan for Cancún called for a great number of green areas that were to be left as open space. But the success of the hotels called for expansion, and urban encroachment won out over conservation.
The financial success of this development plan has colored the notion of “ecotourism” in the region. The focus has been on creating environmentally friendly megahotels that cater to the affluent elite of the ecotourism market.
Smaller efforts are simply drowned out by the chorus of loud advertisements and sales promotions at the Cancún airport or at information kiosks. Ask for information on the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve or smaller parks, and you'll likely elicit a blank stare. As tourism agents don't get commissions from these trips, they're not that interested in distributing information about “alternative tourism.”
In 1996 Mario Villanueva Madrid, the governor of Quintana Roo, proposed a Maya Coast ecotourism corridor. The project attempts to replicate the success of the tourism corridor between Cancún and Tulum. The effort to construct environmentally friendly hotels is noteworthy and commendable, but unless the development also supports conservation measures and includes and benefits local communities, it's hard to call the project “ecotourism.”

WHAT TO SEE AND DO


The most popular area for snorkeling and diving in Cancún is Punta Nizuc, a national marine park. It became a protected area in July 1996 along with the west coast of Isla Mujeres and Punta Cancún. A portion of every tourist dollar supports park monitoring and conservation efforts.
Biologists call this a “sacrificial reef,” because it is visited by thousands each year. Although snorkelers are given instructions on exploring the reef in a way that does not harm them, they often disregard them. On my trip here a tourist wanted “just a souvenir. Just a little piece of coral? Please?” The boat guide managed to discourage him, but imagine this happening not once but tens of thousands of times. It's amazing the reef is in as good a condition as it is.
One of the natural highlights of the Cancún area is Isla Mujeres (Island of Women), also a case study in the dangers of excessive tourism. Millions of people visit Cancún each year, and many take a day trip to the island. El Garrafón lagoon is slowly dying, a victim of its own appeal. Snorkeling amongst the minions of tourists, it's more common to see someone else's fins than the local tropical fish, which have swum elsewhere to avoid the churning waters. In addition, too many tourists came and destroy the coral, snatching a piece of it for a souvenir. Efforts are underway to beef up vigilance and improve environmental education.
Long, narrow Isla Contoy, established in 1961 as a special biosphere reserve, is one of the most important bird refugees in the Mexican Caribbean. The lack of freshwater supplies have kept the island free of human settlements and have encouraged the survival of the wilderness. The island has extensive coastline, interior lagoons, and mangrove swamps that are home to 70 species of birds including frigate birds, brown pelicans, and double-crested cormorants. Visitors are charged an entry fee that supports the management of the reserve. The island is just an hour's boat ride from Cancún.
Of course, the entertainment options are diverse in this city. Among the ecclectic offerings, check out the Langosteros baseball. The season runs March-July.

CRUISE SHIPS


Environmentalists in the coastal area have long complained that cruise ship traffic along Quintana Roo's tourist corridor could damage the Maya Reef. In December 1997 those fears were realized when the Leeward, a Norwegian-flagged ship of the Norway Cruise Line, sailed directly over Los Cuevones reef, part of the Isla Mujeres marine park near Cancun, "shaving off" 80 percent of that reef.
Authorities filed charges against the cruise line and environmentalists mourned the destruction. Oceanographer Roman Bravo Prieto told television reporters that it would take 500 years or more for the reef to recover. ''The damage is worse than if a full-force hurricane had run ashore,'' he said.

VISITING?


LOCATION -- Cancún is located on the Caribbean in the state of Quintana Roo
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HISTORIA DE CANCÚN


Los mayas, como se creo cancun de donde vinieron y que es cancun hoy
Cancún está en Quintana Roo que fue asiento de los itzaes que llegaron del Sur. Pueblo Maya que aprendió a convivir con la selva. De su grandeza quedan vestigios extraordinarios como la fortaleza de Tulúm, la Ciudad de Cobá y Kohunlich, entre otros. Existen restos de innumerables sitios conocidos, pero inexplorados en su mayor parte. No es exagerado afirmar que en cada pedazo de selva se encuentran huellas de su esplendorosa cultura.
Quintana Roo lleva el nombre del Patricio de la Independencia, Don Andrés Quintana Roo, poeta y escritor, nacido en Mérida Yucatán de cuya provincia formaba parte el ahora 31 Estado de la República.
El presidente Gustavo Díaz Ordaz se dio tiempo para encargar al Banco de México en 1968, un Plan Nacional de Turismo.
Ese plan tenía el objetivo de contribuir al crecimiento del Producto Nacional, además, el plan debía generar oportunidades de inversión para el sector privado, crear empleos, alcanzar la autodeterminación y la comercialización de la oferta turística nacional en el
exterior y lograr la autonomía tecnológica en los servicios turísticos, entre otras cosas.
Con base en esos lineamientos, el Banco de México creó en 1969 Infratur, para llevar al cabo un Programa Integral de Centros Turísticos. De esa forma, se iniciaron los estudios a identificar las zonas propicias para la ejecución de proyectos de infraestructura turística y Cancún y Zihuatanejo fueron seleccionados como prioridades de inversión.
Por aquellos tiempos Quintana Roo apenas tenía poco más de 40,000 habitantes, concentrados en Chetumal, Cozumel e Isla Mujeres. Los censos de aquella época no le daban importancia a la isla de Cancún, habitada sólo durante algunas temporadas del año.
Durante siglos nadie se percató de lo que hoy se llama el Caribe Mexicano, hasta que apareció Cancún, una ciudad que surgió de la selva y se convirtió en la capital del turismo internacional de México.
El mar que hoy recorren las embarcaciones turísticas fue de piratas; de los mayas que por medio siglo controlaron las costas y tierras del Caribe mexicano, hasta que una acción militar encabezada por el Gral. Bravo "conquistó" a una ya abandonada Chan Santa Cruz (hoy Felipe Carrillo Puerto) y transformó en asentamiento de un campo de trabajos forzados que le generó a Quintana Roo la terrible "Leyenda Negra" de la selva.
Es así como surge la majestuosa ciudad de Cancún hoy destino numero 1 del turismo mundial hoy Cancún cuenta con imponentes hoteles, villas y condominios grandes cadenas mundiales de turismo están presentes en Cancún y cuenta con plazas comerciales de excelente calidad como los mejores del mundo tiendas de prestigiado renombre se pueden encontrar en Cancún y el arte culinario es de lo mejor hasta los paladares mas exigentes se complacen en Cancún con tan variadas opciones de comida desde los establecimientos de comida rápida hasta las mas finos restaurantes.
Hoy la zona hotelera de Cancún es un Boulevard de 25 kilómetros conocido como la zona hotelera donde se concentran todos los hoteles, Cancún anualmente es visitado por mas de 3 millones de turistas de todo el mundo y hoy existe en Cancún mas de 28,000 cuartos de hotel y la industria turística genera mas de 40,000 empleos directos.
La tecnología, modernismo, calidad y el toque novedoso se hace presente en Cancún en discotecas, bares, centros comerciales, restaurantes, hoteles, condominios, centro de convenciones y en los próximos años el gran desarrollo de Puerto Cancún, El autónomo de Cancún que ya incluye un Gran Premio de México (autódromo para carretas de autos formula 1) y el primer Home Port "primer gran mega proyecto" para que cruceros de todo el mundo inicien travesía en Xcaret situado en la Riviera Maya, cabe mencionar que la Riviera Maya es el corredor turístico localizado pasando el aeropuerto de Cancún rumbo a playa del carmen hasta tulum (lo cual no es la zona hotelera de Cancún) en donde hoy existen también mas de 29,000 cuartos de hotel así el estado de Quintana roo ofrece hoy en día en conjunto mas de 57,000 cuartos de hotel.