The countdown to Cancun50 has begun. Cancun is 50 years old on April 20, 2020. One of the world’s most popular beach destinations, it’s hard to believe that in 1970, the vibrant Hotel Zone strip was a deserted sand spit in a remote corner of the Mexican Caribbean. Covered in coconut palm plantations, mangroves and low-growing coastal shrubs and dotted with several tiny Mayan temples, the only visitors it received apart from birds and nesting sea turtles, were the caretakers of a beach house belonging to an Isla Mujeres businessman and a handful of fishermen from the nearby village of Puerto Juárez. It wasn’t even on the map!
The story of how the island was transformed into Mexico’s first master-planned tourism development, a Caribbean destination visited by millions of tourists from all over the world and a gateway to Mexico is a tale of pioneers, feats of engineering and a vision.
During the 1960s, the Mexican Government began to discuss the enormous potential of tourism as a tool for national development and the need to diversify an economy that was increasingly dependent on oil exports. President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz ordered the Bank of Mexico to develop a National Tourism Plan. Studying the growth of tourism in other countries, the planners saw that it could provide revenue, jobs and boost regional development. The Bank of Mexico’s preliminary study concluded that Mexico should tap into the lucrative international market by building a new beach resort.
The search was on to find the ideal location. In 1968, a team of Bank of Mexico researchers headed by a young Harvard graduate and banker called Antonio Enrique Savignac embarked on a mission to find the perfect beach location. Months of fieldwork along 9,000 kilometers of coastline bordering the Pacific, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and analysis followed before they selected Cancún to be the site of Mexico’s first master-planned tourism center.
The Cancún project was approved in 1969 and work began in 1970. The first hotels opened in 1974 and Cancun has never looked back.
Over the next few months to commemorate Cancun50 we will be telling the Cancun story and sharing memories of what it was like to live and vacation here.
Tell us your Cancun story
Do you have a favorite memory of Cancun in the early days? Or would you like to wish Cancun a happy birthday? Why not drop us a line and let us know or visit the official Royal Resorts Facebook page. We would love to hear from you.