Post-hurricane reconstruction fuels boom
In the 1970s, Cancun was literally created out of nothing. The Mexican government was looking for a new resort that could attract foreign tourists and their money, and their choice of location turned out very well. Cancun grew from three residents in 1970 to become a mecca for sun seekers from all over the world.
On Oct. 21, 2005, hurricane Wilma made landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula, devastating Cancun and reducing the legendary beaches to a shadow of their former selves. The damage hurt the tourist trade, but the government and private investors were quick to start rebuilding. As for the famed white beaches that first attracted tourists, the Mexican government paid $24 million US to a Belgian company to vacuum up sand from the bottom of the ocean roughly 20 miles off the coast of Cancun and pump it back to the beaches. While this has helped many beaches recover their old lustre, erosion is still a problem and many beaches have sandbags on them to attempt to slow the process
But in many ways Wilma gave Cancun a chance to reinvigorate itself for the 21st century. There have been massive infrastructure changes, such as the rebuilding and widening of roads and major highways — including the main route to Merida and Chichen Itza — replacing old plumbing and drainage systems, installing hurricane-proof street lights and planting 6,000 new palm trees. Many hotels and resorts used the nearly $2 billion in insurance payments to remodel and upgrade facilities. Older, rundown hotels are being replaced by luxury condos and resorts as construction is booming.
Improvements still need to be made, and the beaches will take a while to get back to their former glory, but Cancun has weathered Wilma and come out the better for the experience.