Drastic Rise In AirBnBs Prompt Image Concern in Quintana Roo
The drastic increase in AirBnBs in Tulum is creating an image dilemma for tourists and the industry alike. The concerns have been voiced amidst recent violence and other crime that has taken place in the city.
Part of the image problem is stemming from typical vacation tourists seeing stories of visitors being robbed, attacked, or having their rooms broken into on what seems like a more regular basis than normal. Although many of the stories are true, the vast majority of the issues are focussed around AirBnBs located far from the tourist spots and even in some relatively unsafe neighborhoods.
The President of the Tulum Hotel Association even suggested that the sudden surge in AirBnBs may be partly responsible for some of the violent drug-related crime that has shaken the region recently. His thinking on the scenario is that many of those staying in the Airbnbs are promoting a kind of party tourism that propagates drug use and, in turn, exposure to the criminals that commit these crimes.
Potential short-term visitors are seeing the issues and fearing that similar incidents will happen to them, despite them staying in the extremely secure resort areas. The vast majority of the major resorts have security in place and electronic locks that prevent any outsiders from entering the property.
Statistically speaking, tourists are extremely safe in Quintana Roo. Cancun, for example, is technically safer for tourists than places like Paris or Las Vegas. Tulum has similar statistics for those staying in hotels and around the hotel zones.
Tulum has enjoyed incredible growth throughout the pandemic. Although still not as popular as nearby Cancun, the city appeared on many lists of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world. Similar to Cancun, its success was due in part to Mexico’s relaxed stance on the pandemic. Tourists from across the world were able to enter the country regardless of vaccination status and without any COVID testing. This alone made it a wonderful choice for many travelers with dwindling options.
Tulum’s popularity in particular caught hold of a much more specific market – digital nomads. While Cancun’s main market is short-term tourists, Tulum began pulling in remote workers from across the globe who were otherwise unsure of where to set up shop while the rest of the world shut down.
Setting itself up a Western answer to Bali, another digital nomad hub, Tulum saw a massive uptick in long-term rentals, the bulk of which were serviced on the property sharing website and app, AirBnB. These provide a much cheaper alternative to hotels and other more traditional properties and allow the digital nomads a comfortable home base where they can cook at home instead of eating out more too.
Currently, AirBnBs make up around 22% of the available rooms in Quintana Roo – a sizable portion. But in Tulum, almost 44% of the available rooms are Airbnbs making them a massive competitor for the hotels in the region.
But with such high numbers offering cheap accommodation, many of the properties are in more exposed areas where the long-term guests stick out more than the locals do and often make it very clear they have expensive equipment like laptops and other things needed to work.
A rise in crime surrounding these types of accommodations creates problems for Tulum. Cancun has Airbnbs too, but substantially less. The reputation it has gained within the digital nomad world makes it highly desirable. But the problems that come with those less secure accommodations could potentially make it less desirable for those staying in the hotels, regardless of the truth.
Those staying in the hotel zone are incredibly safe. There is a reason more and more hotels are being built there, as well as the new airport that will be completed next year. Tulum’s sudden success made it hard for the state to plan its growth, but it should be expected that a big investment in city infrastructure will appear soon to help combat any issues being faced as it continues to increase its numbers.
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