COZUMEL -- A number of developments are bringing new offerings into
the Cozumel tourism fold and enhancements to the existing
Among the additions on tap for this Mexican Caribbean resort
destination are the first championship golf course for the island,
an Atlantis submarine, four hotels, and expansions and renovations
at existing properties, most of which have been completed. "These
new projects will allow us to diversify [our offerings] for the
increasing number of visitors expected by the year 2000 and
beyond," said Gaston Cantarell Diaz, president of the Cozumel Hotel
Cozumel received more than 300,000 visitors in 1998, and
Cantarell Diaz said the destination is projecting a 20% increase in
arrivals in 1999. By improving facilities and services and adding
options, Cozumel can target a wider range of clientele and
capitalize on niche-market segments such as golf, he said.
Construction on the island's first golf course is expected to
begin in July and be completed by December 2000. The 18-hole
course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, will be developed in the
northern part of the island, near three properties: El Cozumeleno,
Paradisus and Sol Cabanas del Caribe.
In addition to the golf course, the $60 million development is
slated to include one or two hotels and a residential area.
According to Gabriela Eisele Thurau, vice president of marketing
for the Cozumel Hotel Association, the development will be
"This is an ecological project intending to respect all the
natural attributes of the area, such as the mangroves and the
vegetation," she said. To that end, the golf course will be
fertilized with organic materials and will utilize an irrigation
system designed to reuse runoff from the island, she said. The
18-hole golf course and clubhouse are being developed at a cost of
$10 million. Plans call for an additional nine holes in the
Cozumel's first Atlantis submarine was scheduled to begin
operating this month. The $4 million venture was introduced to give
cruise passengers and visitors who do not scuba dive or snorkel the
opportunity to experience the Mexican Caribbean's diverse
underwater world, according to Javier Aranda, manager of the
Cozumel Hotel Association. "We know there are a lot of people who
come to Cozumel but are not able to take in the beautiful reef, so
it is a very important addition for the destination," he said.
The submarine, which carries 48 passengers and descends to
depths of up to 100 feet, focuses on the marine life at Chankaanab,
the world's second-largest reef. The vessel, Mexico's only Atlantis
Submarine, previously was located in Cancun.
The offices of Atlantis Submarines in Cozumel are located across
the street from the Casa del Mar hotel.
Meanwhile, Cozumel is significantly expanding and enhancing its
hotel lineup. In 2000, the destination will increase its current
count of 3,600 rooms by 936 units in four new hotels. Additionally,
more than $12 million is being invested by existing properties to
The new hotel developments include a 240-room Jack Tar Village
inclusive property, a 300-room Regina hotel and a 300-room
Iberostar inclusive resort, all of which will be located on the
south end of the island, plus a 96-room Grupo Becerra property,
which will be situated in Cozumel's downtown area. The four
properties are scheduled to be unveiled in 2000, although the
Iberostar plans to have 100 rooms open later this year and the
remaining 200 ready next year.
Five Cozumel properties are active on the expansion and
renovation front: Casa del Mar, El Cozumeleno, Fiesta Inn, Playa
Azul and Presidente Inter-Continental.The 98-room Casa del Mar recently completed a series of
renovations, including a complete remodeling of its guest rooms and
bathrooms and the addition of new flooring and lighting in common
areas. The hotel also added a tennis court.A $10 million expansion project is under way at the 100-room El
Cozumeleno inclusive resort. The project will include the addition
of 154 guest rooms in a separate building, another pool and a
meeting room accommodating 600 people.A number of renovations recently were finished at the 180-room
Fiesta Inn, including the addition of handrails for guest room
balconies, air-conditioning units, in-room safe-deposit boxes, new
curtains and a poolside terrace.A $1 million enhancement project currently under way at the
30-room Playa Azul is scheduled for completion by December. The
project entails constructing 27 guest rooms, refurbishing 16 guest
rooms and adding a swimming pool and a paddle-tennis court.The 253-room Presidente Inter-Continental finished a renovation
project that included the addition of a meeting room for 50 people
and a beachview gym. Bathrooms in all of the resort's guest units
were also refurbished under the initiative.
Parks and reefs
In other developments on Cozumel, the southern part of the
island will be home to a new ecological park sometime this summer.
Called Punta Sur Park, the development is part of the Cozumel Parks
& Museums Foundation's 12th anniversary project. The park will
feature a museum of navigation and excursions incorporating
bird-watching and opportunities to view the various other fauna and
the flora indigenous to the region.
In another ecological effort, the Cozumel Reefs National Marine
Park implemented a program in which visitors to the park can donate
$2 to help fund preservation projects. Cozumel Reefs National
Marine Park encompasses an area of 67,133 acres and includes about
85% of the island's dive sites.
Three programs currently are funded by the donations. The
programs involve scientific monitoring of the reefs, public
education and regulation of activities in the protected natural
Additional programs are in the works, such as a beach- cleaning
initiative and a project to alleviate environmental pressures
caused by scuba diving. To reduce ecological pressure on the reef,
certain areas occasionally are closed while access is permitted to
new dive sites.