The news out of Tulum that 16 boutique hotels were raided early on the morning of June 17 over issues of property rights, displacing guests and catching owners off guard, apparently was just the latest chapter in a history of real estate corruption in Mexico.
But those who plan and sell vacations to the Caribbean seaside town, one of the hottest spots in Mexico according to TripAdvisor, say news of the raids has had little impact on their business.
A group of nearly 500 men with moving trucks stormed the properties that morning, according to Mexico News Daily
, claiming to be government officials and forcibly breaking door locks on hotels and firing gunshots into the air.
"Evacuees said that a large group of men started breaking door locks and forcibly entering the premises, calling those inside squatters and ordering them out by court order," Riviera Maya News
reported. "Many of the property owners say they knew nothing of the court order and that no notice was given of the eviction."
According to a release put out by the travel agency Journey Mexico
, establishments affected by the raids were Coqui Coqui, Hotel Morena del Mar, Villa las Estrellas, Hotel Iguana Blue, Hotel Uno Astrolodge, Cabanas El Caracol, Hotel Azucar, Bahlam, Hotel Paryso, Coqui Coqui, Casa Privada Cocodrilo, Hotel Latente Rose, Hotel Pico Beach, Hotel Ak'iin, Casa Geminis, Hotel Samasati, Belha and Restaurant El Hongo.
Reaching out to realtors and hotel owners in Tulum proved to be futile, as most wished to remain anonymous or had no comment for fear of retribution from those behind the raids.
"[The men carrying out the evictions] weren't even cops," one shop owner told Travel Weekly, asking that his name not be used. "They were guys in security shirts with no papers who just started taking stuff out of hotels in vans. It's a long story of powerful businessmen. It's a few rich guys from Mexico and a few politicians who are trying to get away with it."
The shopkeeper said Tulum today looks as if nothing happened, save for the smattering of closed hotels. And travel agents contacted by TW report that they have not been hearing from customers about safety concerns.
"This has happened before in Tulum. The same thing happened a few years ago," said Jewell Edney Ramos, a leisure travel consultant with Worldview Travel. "Then it resulted in the temporary closing of several top hotels that I sold. The list of affected hotels [in this raid] does not include any of the properties that I sell."
"We sell Tulum a ton and will continue to do so," said Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico. "We have talked to the principal hotels, villas and other providers in the area and also inspected personally with our staff from our Cancun office; it seems that many of these properties were not properly registered."
"Very few of my peers are booking the smaller hotels that were impacted by this," added Mitch Toren, chief vacation engineer with TripGuy Travel. "These hotels are not offered by most traditional tour operators and not always easy to work with directly. We work with many of the larger resorts in the area like Dreams Tulum, which was not impacted by this."
Correction: A previous version of this article named the Shambala Petit Hotel as one of the properties involved in a series of armed evictions in Tulum. The Shambala Petit was not among the affected hotels, according to owner Roberto Hernandez.