This seems like a pretty good idea for tourism on the surface. The ability of movement within a destination is invaluable, and more cruise ships mean more dinero for tourism, which is the bread for the Yucatan Peninsula's butter. But the Cancun and Riviera Maya hotel industry isn't buying it. And it goes further than the tracks themselves -- based on letters from Carnival to the Mexican government, the general consensus is that the completion of the train will result in the cruise line establishing a "homeport" in Calica.
The cruise ships sure bring in their fair share of numbers, but the problem for the hotel industry rests with how long they stay. Cruise travelers will typically only spend a night or two in the destination as compared to a non-cruisers four or five night stay. The hotel industry is clearly worried that the trend will move towards the former if Carnival gets its way. It's also concerned that the completion of the train will lead to a Carnival "homeport" in Calica near Playa del Carmen.
The hotels definitely raise a good point. If cruise ship passengers begin to make up a larger percentage of the visitor stream, it would stand to reason that the local hotels and operators would see decreases in their revenue, since so many people are simply coming to leave. When you think about the limited number of flights (seats) there are to reach Cancun over a given period of time, you can understand why the hotel industry would like to keep them from being filled with those looking to board a boat.
Another interesting twist to this story is the fact that while hoteliers in Cancun and the Riviera Maya are frustrated, others from different areas, such as Merida, see things a little differently. If the train were built, they would suddenly become accessible from Cancun. For example, a representative from the Hacienda Xcanatún in Merida posted this in response to the project's announcement: "What a great way that will be to get from the Riviera Maya to Merida! All the more reason to come and visit us at Hacienda Xcanatún!"
So, what to do? It's pretty obvious that this is more about the establishment of a homeport than it is the building of train tracks. The train is not the problem for the hotel industry -- it's what Carnival might do if it becomes reality. Hotels simply don't want those precious airline seats to be filled with cruisers, and they certainly don't want to see a homeport appear next door. But if the train becomes a reality in 2015, will the cruise ship industry begin to gain marketshare? And, if so, how will it effect tourism on a larger scale in Yucatan?
That is, of course, the biggest question that the Mexican Tourism Board and its government must answer. We will be sure to keep an eye on this story as it goes forward.