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New Economy

Mexico’s Hottest Resort Towns Struggle With Covid Travel Boom

Growth in Cancún and Tulum highlights the country’s jump to the top of the global destination charts. Some question whether it can—or should—stay there.

Dancing in Tulum.

Dancing in Tulum.

Photographer: Lisette Poole for Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s 2 p.m. in the Mexican resort town of Tulum, and the beach club at the Ikal Hotel is heating up for its “ecstatic dance” session. Inside a thatch-roofed pavilion, a sweaty crowd bops to a “folktronica” track spun by a DJ whose next stop is Berlin. Down a set of wide stone steps, fit thirtysomethings smack volleyballs on a beach that smells of seaweed and sunscreen. A “treehouse” room will set you back $800 a night, and a bottle of Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wine runs $110.

A decade ago, Tulum was a sleepy fishing village that served as a gateway to nearby Mayan ruins. These days it’s part of the international party circuit—marketed as a jungle paradise with really great nightlife. The town’s beach strip is lined with tony restaurants, designer clothing boutiques, and chalkboard ads for yoga classes and hand-poke tattoos. With its clubs, linen-clad models, and ample supplies of weed, ayahuasca, and cocaine, it’s the kind of place where “the hippies become millionaires and the millionaires become hippies,” says tour guide Hervé Pech.