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The Mexican Caribbean Has Broken Its All-Time Tourism Record With Over 21 Million Visitors

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If you’ve ever been to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, you’ll understand why this stunning region is a favorite among travelers worldwide.

Gorgeous white-sand beaches, excellent weather, luxurious all-inclusives, a myriad of exciting tours and activities, amazing food – basically, everything you could wish for in a perfect getaway, you’ll find it here.

Just a few years back, the Mexican Caribbean was essentially synonymous with Cancun, but this has changed dramatically in recent times.

Cancun tourists enjoying a beach day in Hotel Zone

Don’t get me wrong, the iconic beach town remains the crown jewel of the region, but each year, more and more travelers venture beyond Cancun to discover the wonders the Mexican Caribbean has to offer.

In fact, several destinations across the region welcomed record-breaking numbers of visitors in 2019. But, after a certain worldwide event I’m sure many of us would prefer to forget, it all came to a screeching halt.

Fast-forward to 2022, and the Mexican Caribbean was once again a thriving travel hub, but it had yet to regain its former pre-pandemic glory.

The turning point came in 2023, with three out of six destinations effectively shattering their 2019 records, according to the Quintana Roo State Tourism Secretariat (Sedetur).

@trendytraveler Best Things To Do in the Mexican Caribbean! 🇲🇽 @mexicancaribbean #travel #travelmexico #mexico #mexicancaribbean #islamujeres #tulum #bacalar #travelbucketlist #traveltiktok ♬ Sunroof – Nicky Youre & dazy

Overall, the Mexican Caribbean welcomed a whopping 21 million 84 thousand 629 travelers in 2023, a 7.1% increase from 2022 – making it the best year for tourism for the region.

The Mexican Caribbean’s Evolving Tourism Landscape

There’s little doubt that Cancun is still the top Mexican Caribbean destination, home to the world-famous Hotel Zone and Cancun International Airport serving as the major entry point to the entire region.

But here’s where it gets interesting – both Cancun and the Riviera Maya fell short of the 2019 record by 1.5 points, managing only to surpass the 2022 record.

Now, looking at the occupancy stats, Isla Mujeres boasted the highest percentage of rooms occupied per night, achieving an impressive 9.8 points higher in hotel occupancy rates.

@mtinatravels Come take a tour of Impression Isla Mujeres! This resort is literally so beautiful I couldn’t even believe I was there. This all-inclusive resort has one of the best rooftop pools in Mexico, and it has some of the best balconies with the best views! #allinclusiveresort #impressionislamujeres #traveladvisor #islamujeres ♬ Aesthetic – Gaspar

Following closely were the Riviera Maya, Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Tulum, Cozumel, and lastly, Chetumal.

As a former ‘Quintanarroense’ I’m somewhat surprised to see Chetumal on the list, as locals don’t think of it as much of a tourist hotspot, even though it’s actually the capital city of the Quintana Roo state.

Maybe it’s the city’s rich history (there’s famous pirates involved, after all) or its proximity to the beautiful Bacalar lagoon. 

In any case, it’s always nice to see lesser-known destinations in the region gaining recognition among travelers as well.

Aerial view of Bacalar lagoon on a tranquil day

To be fair, given the sheer number of hotel rooms available in Cancun and the popular Riviera Maya, breaking the 2019 record for these hotspots was undoubtedly a tough feat.

But the fact that even Chetumal broke its own 2019 record by 6 points tells an interesting story – the Mexican Caribbean is not only about Cancun anymore.

Why The Mexican Caribbean Keeps Shattering Tourism Records

So, what is all the buzz around the Mexican Caribbean right now? It’s not that the beaches have gotten prettier or the waters more crystal-clear, I don’t think.

What’s really making waves in the Mexican Caribbean is the region’s enhanced connectivity and the rising popularity of emerging destinations – which actually feed back off each other.

Maya Train Track Running Through the Yucatan Peninsula

You’ve probably heard of the Maya Train by now, as it’s the most ambitious and highly anticipated tourism project the Mexican Government has developed in decades. 

Although the sections connecting Cancun with Playa del Carmen and Tulum are not fully operational yet, the train has already carried an impressive 65,000 passengers since its debut, with an 84% average occupancy rate.

Moreover, post-pandemic travel trends have shifted towards a preference for more cultural and nature-oriented trips, and that’s exactly what destinations like Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Puerto Morelos—all of them boasting their own Maya Train stations—offer.

Cars Parked Outside of Tulum International Airport

But it’s not only about regional connectivity, as air travel in the Mexican Caribbean also witnessed a major shift in 2023.

Along with the Maya Train project, the Mexican Government recently inaugurated the Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport at Tulum, which will begin international operations by the end of the month with carriers like Delta, Spirit, and American Airlines.

Moreover, ever since the U.S. reinstated Mexico’s aviation safety rating to the highest category last year, an increasing number of flights and connections to Cancun International Airport have been announced – making a Mexican Caribbean getaway more accessible to Americans than ever before.

aerial view of Cancun Hotel Zone

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