The Fate of the Nichupte Lagoon System in the Planning of Cancun, Mexico as an International Tourism Center

by Martín Merino, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de, Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico,
Jens Sorensen, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de, Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico,
David Gutierrez, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de, Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: The Management of Coastal Lagoons and Enclosed Bays


Many books and articles on tourism development of pristine and attractive areas conclude with the metaphor of cancer killing its host body. Cancun, in fact was a response to the perceived death - in international tourism circles - of Acapulco. To many, Cancun now appears to becoming another Acapulco. The tourism development of Cancun, like Acapulco, has both degraded the original spectacular attractions of the site and has motivated residents and tourists to live or vacation elsewhere. The paper traces the history of Cancun from its conception in 1969 to its present status as in international tourism center. In 1969, the Cancun area was a pristine coastal landscape, inhabited by approximately 400 people. By 1990 it was a city of over 200,000 residents that attracted over 1.5 million visitors a year to 18,000 hotel and condominium rooms. Cancun's most distinguishing natural feature is the Nichupte Lagoon system. It was the largest clear lagoon with a white sandy bottom in the wider Caribbean and Mexico. Over the last 24 years the shallow Lagoon system with its very restricted circulation has been battered by the development of Cancun. Filling, dredging, the direct discharge of pollutants, and additional restrictions in the circulation have turned part of the Lagoon system from an attractive jewel to a eutrophic soup, accentuated with floating and submerged mats of macroalgae. Unfortunately, the planners and managers of Cancun's tourism development have not yet responded to the stressed situation in the Lagoon system with an appropriate set of administrative procedures and restoration strategies.

Subject Headings: Lagoons | Developing countries | Tourism | Water pollution | Diseases | Motivation | History | Coastal environment | Mexico

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