TULUM, Mexico - Mexico is seeing a spike in visitors tied into the Mayan calendar, which some interpret as having ended on Friday.
While the date’s significance is debated, doomsday predictions have helped boost tourism in Mayan regions of Mexico.
The resort area known as the Mayan Riviera is a favorite with tourists, but now more are also lining up to view the coastal Mayan ruins in Tulum.
"It’s amazing how that survived for so long, and our construction doesn’t seem to last that long," said Lance Aldridge, who was visiting with his wife and two sons.
The fascination with centuries old Mayan civilization is especially high this year, because the end of the Maya long-count calendar, which runs 5,123 years, falls on December 21, 2012, the winter solstice.
Some interpret the doomsday date inscribed in stone 1,300 years ago as a prediction of the end of the world, as featured in the apocalyptic movie starring John Cusack, "2012."
Modern day Mayans have their doubts.
"The only one who knows when the world will end is God above," said Juan Carlos Pechagoya, pointing to the sky.
Though he credits his ancestors for their intricate calendar, he like many modern day Mayans, dismiss doomsday predictions.
Many in this region still speak one of the native Mayan languages. But he, like others along the coast who used to be fisherman, now use their boats to earn a living from tourism.
During a boat ride he pointed out the "temple of our Mayan ancestors," Tulum perched above the rocky coast. The buildings include watchtowers, so the ancient Mayans could keep an eye out for enemies approaching by sea.
This year, Mexico’s secretary of tourism rolled out the welcome mat for visitors with its "Mundo Maya" campaign, promoting the Mayan world in five southern states.
Over images of ruins and smiling Mayan people of today, bold letters announce, "The countdown that will make history starts today – a new era begins."
Many experts agree the Mayan Calendar does not mark the end of the world in 2012. NASA has even disputed the doomsday predictions on its web site.
"All this is made up," said Ric Hajovsky, who has written a book about the Mayan ruins in Cozumel that honor the god of fertility. The Mayan calendar everyone is talking about is really the Olmec calendar, that was started 4,500 years ago.
"The Aztecs took it over, and then Mayans took it over," he continued.
Hajovsky is formerly of Houston, but now lives on the island.
He and others say the end of the Mayan long calendar is just the end of a period known as a Bak’tun. He said the fascination with 2012 says more about us than the ancient people.
"Our culture likes to celebrate the end of one thing and the beginning of another, and that’s all this Bak'tun 13 is," he said. "And then it will be Bak’tun 14."
Some are offering a modern day way to countdown the days until the end of the calendar cycle, the winter solstice.
An iPhone app, iMaya, gives user a way to "learn about the various Maya cycles of time and gain a better understanding of why December 21, 2012 is an important Maya date."
Pechagoya and others who take tourists out on their boats to view the ruins of Tulum from the water were ready for all the visitors.
"We’re waiting for you with open arms," he said.