Agustín Sarasola
Director General
OHL Desarrollos Mexico

Infrastructure to Support Tourism Growth

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:36

Cancun has instant name recognition but another area is nipping at its heals, not just in tourism but also in economic growth. Playa del Carmen is only 30km away from Cancun International Airport but the development potential, particularly in infrastructure, is outshining its famous neighbor, says Agustín Sarasola, Director General of OHL Desarrollos México. “Playa del Carmen is bound to become a big city. In addition to being the capital of the Riviera Maya, its expanding population is leading the city to larger than expected growth.”

OHL’s interest in Playa del Carmen is based on the two sectors that are experiencing the largest growth: tourism and infrastructure. Its tourism project has already made a name for itself: Mayakoba Resorts. Located just 6km north of Playa del Carmen, Mayakoba Resort’s business model includes luxury hotel brands such as Banyan Tree, Fairmont, Rosewood and Andaz. But another project has the potential to reshape the area. “We have detected an increasingly younger population in Playa del Carmen in need of infrastructure and services and that is what we want to deliver with Ciudad Mayakoba,” says Sarasola.

Ciudad Mayakoba encompasses the construction of 17,000 new houses, along with hospitals, schools, sports facilities as well as cultural and commercial spaces and a university over a 400ha area. Sarasola says that in just one year, they have sold 1,200 houses, accounting for 25 percent of the housing sales in Playa del Carmen.

The Mayakoba brand has relied heavily on three pillars: longterm planning, integration and environmental protection, and Ciudad Mayakoba is relying on these elements for success. “When planning a city, having a long-term master plan becomes essential,” says Sarasola. “The goal of Ciudad Mayakoba is to create a community regardless of purchasing power through the existence of quality public services and spaces.” Sarasola also points to the development’s environmental focus, which has become a Mayakoba trademark. “Ciudad Mayakoba is based on a series of biological corridors that allow the preservation of nature, flora and fauna.”

However, it is the relationship established with local authorities and the municipality of Solidaridad, the district where Playa del Carmen is located, that will ensure the project develops as expected. “Our relationship with the municipality is key. It has to approve the master plan and develop the needed infrastructure for basic services, education and roads,” he continues.

Sarasola says the hardest challenge has been finding a group of partners to work alongside OHL Desarrollos México. “We have a business model that is associative, meaning that we do not develop 100 percent of the projects. We share the development with partners that have to comply with our quality standards.”

While Ciudad Mayakoba is fairly advanced, Sarasola says that the plan envisages a 10-year period before it is 100 percent complete. “Our expectation is to have people living in Ciudad Mayakoba by 2018 and in approximately four years to have developed 75 percent of the project.”

While Sarasola believes that Ciudad del Carmen still offers significant opportunities to continue developing the Mayakoba brand, he says that the country's touristic potential makes other destinations also interesting. “We have analyzed the possibility of investing in Riviera Nayarit or Los Cabos, as we believe that these two places offer interesting opportunities to repeat a project like Mayakoba. We do not rule out finding partners to develop in these locations.”