Before the Mexican government decided to transform a strip of sand inhabited by about a hundred Mayan fishermen into a major tourist resort, Cancún was a peaceful, isolated paradise. as they went about there usual business, the local fishermen surely had little idea that scores of bureaucrats were studying all sorts of computer compiled data indicating, beyond the shadow of doubt, that Cancún had the potential to attract more tourists season after season than anywhere else in Mexico.
In a little over 20 years, Cancún mushroomed into a town of 30,000 inhabitants, with about a hundred hotels able to accommodate a total of two million tourists year-round in some 19,000 rooms, as well as hundreds of restaurants and shops.
It all began in the 1960s, when Mexico became aware of its own tourist potential. in 1967, Cancún was officially chosen as the site on which to develop the infrastructure for a mega-project, thanks to its long, white-sand beach, subtropical climate, turquoise Caribbean waters and the proximity to the region's other tourist spots.
Construction was begun on roads, aqueducts and hotels in 1974, but the place remained relatively unknown until the mid-1980s, when a whirlwind of activity hit the area: hotels sprouted up like mushrooms and Cancún became a tourist resort par excellence. The city's development might soon reach its peak.
Cancún has been designed to please its major clientele, American tourists, who account for 60% of all visitors to the city. It's just like home for them here, with the same big restaurants and hotel chains, the same supermarkets, the same music in the discotheques. Everything is tailor made to suit there tastes. Furthermore, English often prevails over Spanish in conversation. This divests place of much of its exotic charm, but obviously appeals to many people: Cancún is one of the most popular Mexican destinations for foreign tourists.
Cancún is made up of Cuidad Cancún (Cancún City) and the Zona Hotelera (hotel zone). It is one of the only cities in the world where residents and tourists are so clearly separated. The 22.5-kilometre-long hotel zone is covered with gigantic, international-class hotels. These stand side by side between the sea and a wide road.
Most residents of Cancún City work in the local hotels, bars and restaurants, and most where were born elsewhere; only the children and adolescents are Cancúns natives.
Cancún is a convenient gateway for travelers wishing to explore the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itza and Tulúm, and to immerse themselves in the traditional Yucatec lifestyle, which can be traced directly back to the ancient Maya. A large choice of flights is available to these visitors, who are sure to flee Cancún as soon as possible in search of more authenticity.
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