INFRASTRUCTURE FOR GROWTH

Mexico 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

FONATUR is revolutionizing southeast Mexico's transport infrastructure through Tren Maya, a 1,524-km flagship railroad project that will cut across five states and connect various tourist attractions.

Rogelio Jiménez
BIOGRAPHY
Rogelio Jiménez has years of experience in the tourism sector. Previously, during the government of Leandro Rovirosa, he was the State of Tabasco’s Director of Tourism. Jiménez was also a Federal Delegate of the Tourism Secretary during the same period.

What are the main objectives behind the development of Tren Maya?

The objective of Tren Maya is to improve the economy and develop the southeast of the country. The infrastructure required for the project can be used for many purposes, but the most important thing is the territorial reorganization because many other functions can be allocated for land use that is not being promoted. Southeast Mexico has gone 30 years without significant investment. Most of the tourism in the area is concentrated in Cancún, but the formula that was used to grow the industry was not well thought out. It requires workers to live far away from the hotels that they work in. We intend to change this whole process with a different strategy. We will consider the locals, and we will diversify the markets to avoid only the development of selected cities. We must plan from the generation of a development platform with four axes: economy, environment, society, and culture. If these four pillars are balanced, we can create a long-term sustainable development platform. The focus is to ensure no pillar dominates; the platform must be inclusive. In the Mayan Riviera and some parts of Mérida, developments affect many communities because workers are moving away because of the cost of the land. Our design puts all the components of the city in a functional relationship so that workers have to commute the shortest-possible distance.

How does the project plan to collaborate with the private sector?

The tourism business will not pay for the train; the cargo business and different developments that are involved with the project will. The train will initially have 15 stations. Private and public investment will make up 90% and 10% of total investment, respectively. The cargo service is central because many inputs come from across the country to the southeast, such as fuel, food, and building materials. We are going to have 10 tenders: seven for construction, one each for rolling stock such as locomotives and wagons, signaling, and operation.

In what ways will the project use additional financial tools such as Fibras to acquire additional capital?

In the case of Palenque, the land was contributed, including 200ha of federal land and 600ha of private land. We established a trust for people who contribute land for infrastructure. If that trust goes well, it can be transformed into a real estate trust or a Fibra. The state drives the business because it generates the permits and handles the management. In the beginning, there will be 15 trusts for each station, and each station will have land contributions. We will obtain the necessary resources through the stock market to grow according to market demands. Our aim is to complete this project in four years.

Besides Tren Maya, what other objectives are your prioritizing for FONATUR?

The first objective of FONATUR is to optimize and improve all its current projects. We are a highly valuable institution for the Mexican state. FONATUR has had great success in Cancún and Los Cabos, but there have also been failures such as Loreto or Playa Espiritu in Sinaloa. To improve further, we are applying a strict program of internal re-engineering of the structure. Moving forward, we will ask the market and the private sector and not the government for capital for developments. We have many ambitious plans for the tourism industry. The most important aspect is integral development. The territorial reorganization will allow us to attract investments in other complementary sectors. We are developing a supply center and a fuel distribution center in Cancún and we plan to integrate the ports into these plans. Campeche, Progreso, and Caleta are the three ports that are bound to grow once they are linked with the train. We have solid plans to turn Cancún into a financial center that competes with Miami or Panama.