Real Estate Development Clashes With Environmental Practices
The state of Quintana Roo and its globally renowned stretch of Caribbean coast has witnessed a particularly profitable, yet problematic pattern of real estate development throughout the last decade. The rampant growth and expansion of real estate and tourism projects in Cancun has bumped against the city’s geographical and infrastructural limits, which have been further exacerbated by emerging ecological events and circumstances linked to climate change, such as the sargasso invasion. As a result, developers have begun finding new outlets for their investments in nearby hotspots such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum. For the past 10 years, Tulum in particular has seen an explosion in interest from specialized international tourism. The development model in this region could not mirror that of Cancun; it had to be more discreet and focused on sustainability, not to mention a significantly reduced environmental impact. Local communities were focused on enforcing existing and new regulations over what is a more fragile ecosystem unburdened and unadapted to the presence of a large urban population. This is all compounded by the presence of the Mayan Ruins that give the region its name.
It would appear that developers are looking to bring this growth into a more aggressive phase despite resistance from local communities. This is exemplified by a report released today by El Economista, which describes troubling and legally dubious transgressions from one of Mexico’s most recognizable tourism-focused real estate developers. This conflict began when the state government of Quintana Roo issued a legal decree calling for the suspension of all construction work statewide as a sanitary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Tulum locals then documented the fact that the construction of two Grupo Posadas hotels in the Chemuyil bay, a particularly ecologically vulnerable subsection of Tulum due to its location neighboring a sea turtle sanctuary, had not stopped. This led a judge to issue a definitive suspension of all construction work in the area. Now, El Economista’s report details that these projects have continued in defiance of the judge’s orders. According to the report, part of what makes the project so objectionable, from an environmental perspective, is the transportation and dumping of massive quantities of sand in an otherwise rockier part of the bay’s shore to create a kind of artificial beach for these hotels, a process that could potentially disrupt the area's ecosystems in catastrophic ways.
Although COVID-19 might have contributed towards creating this situation, it is worth asking why it has not contributed towards diffusing it as well. In other words, it remains unclear why Grupo Posadas, or any large corporation focused on tourism, would be insisting in moving forward with a development of this kind in the midst of what is possibly the sector’s deepest crisis in its entire history. This applies in particular to Grupo Posadas, who is described in a report released today by El CEO as being in dire straits: S&P downgraded its credit rating from CC to D in the first days of July. What exactly Grupo Posadas is trying to prove by pushing this development forward under these circumstances is unclear; what is not is that Tulum’s inhabitants are not likely to let their vigilance of this project lapse anytime soon.