The new Tulum Airport in Mexico officially opened its doors – or runways rather – on 1 December 2023. Initially, only domestic routes are operating but new destinations are still being announced.
All in all, this is a major change to the region – although a long time coming, since the plans were first announced over 10 years ago. And with it will bring a big shake up of transportation along the Quintana Roo coast.
But what does this mean for the ever-growing number of tourists who come to this part of Mexico? Is Tulum International Airport a good thing? Could this be a bad thing?
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What do we know about Tulum International Airport?
The airport is officially known as the Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport. And its located just over 12 miles from Downtown Tulum.
This new gateway to Mexico’s Caribbean coast will make getting to Tulum easier than ever. Visitors will no longer have to travel 90 minutes by road from the overstretched Cancun International Airport, which is currently the closest international airport to Tulum, Mexico.
Roads are currently being built to connect Tulum Airport Mexico to the main Highway 307. And there’ll also be a connection with the hotly-anticipated though equally controversial Maya Train.
And ultimately, this can only mean that tourist numbers are going to continue to skyrocket in Tulum
When does Tulum Airport open?
The first flights landed and took off on 1 December 2023 at Tulum International Airport. But the airport isn’t operating at capacity straight away, more flights will be added over the coming months and years.
Up to 5.5 million passengers are expected to pass through the airport each year on up to 32,000 flights – once it’s fully up and running.
The airport terminal and the 3700-metre-long runway are located southwest of Tulum. In a straight line distance, this is just over 12 miles from central Tulum although the driving route will be longer.
In contrast, the current closest airport to Tulum – Cancun International Airport – is almost 70 miles away.
Tulum Airport Code
TQO is the airport’s IATA code.
Transport Links to Tulum
ADO are currently operating two buses a day from the airport to downtown Tulum – one at midday and one at 5 pm.
More bus routes, shuttle services, car rental companies and taxis will operate offering a mix of public and private transport. Especially once international flights start arriving in March 2024.
Keep an eye out for announcements from companies like ADO who will likely starting providing connections beyond Tulum. To other nearby towns and cities around the Riviera Maya such as Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, Playa del Carmen and Bacalar as well as Valladolid.
The Mayan Train
A Tulum Airport station is expected for the Maya Train. The first section of which – between Campeche and Cancun – has just started operating on 15 December 2023.
The Maya Train is a ground-breaking new 1,554 km long rail route around the Yucatan Peninsula.
It will connect 5 states: Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. Being able to travel by train to Palenque, Merida, Bacalar, Chichen Itza, Cancun and Tulum – as well as many smaller towns – will be revolutionary to this part of the world.
Thousands of ancient artifacts have been discovered during the construction of the route as well as countless cenotes. However, its environmental footprint has led to protests and court injunctions.
So it’s fair to say the Mayan Train isn’t exactly popular. But at this stage, it seems little more can be done to stop the project as it nears completion.
Where can you fly from to Tulum?
As the name suggests, Tulum International Airport expects to receive flights from around the world. However, as yet, only domestic routes have begun operating.
As of December 2023, the following routes are operating or have been announced:
- Aeroméxico: 14 weekly flights to and from Mexico City (Benito Juárez) beginning 1 December 2023
- Mexicana de Aviación: Mexico City (Felipe Ángeles) beginning 26 December 2023
- Viva Aerobus: Guadalajara (from 16 Dec), Mexico City (Benito Juárez and Felipe Ángeles, from 1 Dec), Monterrey (from 1 Dec), Toluca (from 17 Dec) and Tijuana (from 20 Dec)
International Routes Coming soon
So far the only international routes that have been announced are from the US and Canada. With the first of these starting in March 2024.
And it’s likely that flights to and from North America, the UK and mainland Europe will be added in the coming months. After all, foreign passengers expected to make up around 75% of the numbers that’ll pass through.
Flights from the US to Tulum Airport
American, Delta, JetBlue, Spirit and United Airlines have all announced routes from the US to Tulum. And most of them will start in time for Spring Break 2024.
Currently, the routes are:
- Atlanta – Delta – starts 28 March, daily
- Charlotte – American – starts 28 March, daily
- Chicago O’Hare – United – starts 23 March, weekly then daily by summer
- Dallas Fort Worth – American – starts 28 March, twice daily
- Fort Lauderdale – Spirit – starts 28 March, daily
- Houston (IAH) – United – starts 23 March, twice daily
- Los Angeles – United – starts 23 May, daily in summer
- Miami – American – starts 28 March, daily
- Newark – United – starts 23 March, daily
- New York JFK – JetBlue – starts 13 June, daily
- Orlando – Spirit – starts 28 March, daily
Check prices and availability for your travel dates…
Flights from Canada to Tulum International Airport
Air Canada are once again flying the flag by operating the first flights to Tulum starting in May 2024.
Flights from Toronto YYZ begin on 3 May, and will leave and return on Fridays and Sundays each week. Great news for weekend trips in search of sunshine.
Montreal will also see weekly flights each Saturday, starting on 4 May.
Tickets went on sale on 15 December, so get booking for next year’s summer break!
Impact on Tourism
Tourism is already big business in Tulum. What was once a little-known coastal town is now one of the region’s most popular and visited places. And an airport in Tulum Mexico can only mean that tourism numbers will increase, making the area busier than ever.
But for foreign tourists, particularly those in North America and Western Europe it’s mostly good news. For locals, it’s more of a mixed bag, as not everyone will benefit directly or indirectly from the increased cash flow, investment opportunities and increased tourist numbers.
Over the past couple of decades, Tulum has been transformed. It’s unrecognisable with its high-end beach zone, luxury properties and sky-high prices that even many foreign tourists struggle to afford.
And for all the positives that tourism can bring to an area, Tulum’s tourism has certainly brought many negatives. Price rises, pollution, overstretched resources, drugs, crime and anti-social behaviour plague the lives of locals at times – all brought about by the growth of tourism.
So the opening and development of the new airport near Tulum will only magnify both the good and the bad. It’ll bring more money to the area than ever with more people spending money in restaurants, bars, hotels, souvenir stores and local attractions. It’ll grow demand for hotels, hostels, AirBnBs and guesthouses that create jobs and incomes for locals.
But the growing numbers will see Tulum suffer too given the town is already a victim of overtourism. And there’s a real risk that Tulum will lose the allure and charm that attracts tourists in the first place – could it soon be like the hotel zone of Cancun? A place where tourists don’t leave the resort and continue to pump money into foreign-owned businesses? Only the future will tell…
What does this mean for Cancun International Airport?
Cancun Airport isn’t going anywhere. In 2022, 30 million passengers passed through its doors to reach the Yucatan Peninsula. So, Tulum’s capacity of 5 million people isn’t going to replace it.
But it might help ease the burden on an airport operating at peak capacity. Over the last couple of years, the number of people using Cancun Airport has skyrocketed causing long queues at immigration and delays in the baggage hall.
In the short term, the opening of Tulum International Airport may help ease the demand. With tourists heading to Tulum or the south of the peninsula flying there instead.
However, air travel is more popular than ever. And airlines will likely fly additional routes to Tulum, Mexico rather than move some of their current Cancun routes to Tulum. This will just mean 35 million people flying into the state of Quintana Roo rather than 30 million…
More on Mexico…
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