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After many delays, much speculation, and considerable expectation, the process to build the new Riviera Maya airport has finally started.

The Mexican government officially invited bids to construct and operate the new airport, on the coast near Cozumel, earlier this week.

The tender process got off to a false start in March, when Mexican President, Felipe Calderón proudly announced it would begin in April, only for it to be postponed again within days.

But now the competition has been officially and legally initiated and there can be no more "ifs and buts".

The new international terminal will be the first in Mexico entirely financed by private money under a government concession, that will initially run for 50 years.

It will be built on a greenfield site of some 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares) near Tulum and Akumal on the Riviera Maya, 40 miles (65 km) from downtown Cozumel "as the crow flies".

Riviera Maya airport
Tulum, near the new airport's location.

Although it won't open until at least 2012, connections and transport options for visitors to Cozumel will be improved.

By providing an alternative to the existing international airports on the island and in nearby Cancun, it's hoped competition will make it cheaper to reach Cozumel from the USA and Europe.

The new Riviera Maya airport will have a capacity of 700,000 passengers in the first year, rising to 3 million in its third year and reports suggest it will cost around $250 million to construct.

Proposals will need to be submitted by November and a winner could be chosen before the end of the year.

Bidders may include ASUR, the operator of Cozumel and Cancun airports, GAP, the owner of airports on the Pacific side of Mexico, and a number of other international investor groups.

See the location of the new airport on Google Maps, read more Riviera Maya news or see our Transport section for more information and to make reservations for Cozumel flights and airlines or Cozumel airport transfers.