ALTERNATIVE TOURISM ON THE RIVIERA MAYA?

Malo’Kin – Good day in Maya language.
Feedback to our adventure in Mexico, few months later… Along the crowdy and touristy Mayan Riviera, it is very hard to find alternative tourism opportunities. The picture is composed by huge resorts, private beaches, luxurious trucks, international cuisine, recreational parks including wildlife in captivity, bimbos and lazy wealthy tourists. The controversial side of this business is hundreds of hectares of mangrove and wetlands destroyed, aquifers and rivers contaminated, natural protection against hurricanes cleared, etc. The picture of tourism there is the « all inclusive » packaging. If you go out of the main urban patches of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, you will find adventure, pristine waters and green « Nature », still… For how long?

The urban sprawl still goes on, and starts on new places like in Tulum ten years ago and now more South. NGOs like the SAVE organization try to warn public authorities and citizen about these major threats and to ask for better protection of remaining natural coastal areas. For example, we were amazed about the wonders of the area of Bacalar. It would be a pity and a shame to destroy it for new ugly resorts, swimming pools and (foreigner) investors…

Are alternatives to mass tourism possible? Are there responsible tourism projects available? It is hard to answer. From our experience, very few are really responsible, even though several businesses get the « Social Responsibility » certifications. As far as we knew about the corporate social responsibility, the various Mexican certifications are poorly relevant (like the national-wide ESR certification awarded by the Cemefi – « Empresa Socialmente Responsable »).

This is the case of the well-known Xcaret park. The Xcaret group regularly is prized as the best responsible company in Mexico. But as far as we could know about it, from comments of locals to an interview we had with the team in charge of responsible strategy of the group, we still have a critical opinion of them. How can such a big project be beneficial to the environment and local people in a wider range that they have negative impacts on them? We know that they developed very good tracking and quality systems to improve their management and operations. They established as well an independent organization to deal with social and environmental actions. But I still have the impression that big businesses like Xcaret implement interesting and important side projects (and they communicate a lot and very well on it, have good support and connections…), but still do the same in the core of their business, like to destroy the mangroves to extend the operational area, to promote wildlife in captivity, to do not have any limitation of visits to reduce the impact on animals, to promote the « all-inclusive tourism » which is far away from an ethical and small-scale responsible tourism, among other examples. How can we trust the good willing of a « Nature park » that appears more like a recreational and sensation park like Disney or SeaWorld? I cannot. Don’t go there!

Unfortunately, certifications and labeling do not mean a lot in some countries like Mexico. Over there, multi-level corruption and oligarchy control businesses and medias. Alltournative is another travel company that offers a variety of services to tourists, with all-inclusive packages. At the difference of Xcaret, Alltournative seems to have achieved significant economic and sustainable development for the inhabitants of several Mayan communities, to have established programs for cultural and ecologic preservation as well as to have promoted the natural and cultural treasures of Mexico. Currently, Alltournative supports three sustainable development projects involving six different communities in Quintana Roo : Pac-Chén, Tres Reyes, Rancho San Felipe and Kantenah, turning these areas into natural sanctuaries whose protection is based on the agreements and goodwill that exist between Alltournative and the members of each community. To know more about the Alltournative sustainable strategy and action, visit here.
If you want to experience an alternative tourism in the Riviera Maya, it is not easy, but neither impossible. The Mayan Riviera is much more than the coastal touristy and crowded area. Even if many complexes are still popping out from the ground and destroy new virgin coastal areas, I would suggest you to go a bit inland to discover traditional communities and abundant wildlife close to Coba, Señor (X’Yaat Cooperative), Valladolid or close to the beautiful Bacalar Bay, South of Quintana Roo. Go and talk to friendly people to discover unknown cenotes with pristine waters and share with them a good time. Discover the project to recover traditional production of melipona honey in mayan villages.

You can have a look on this map to know some alternative routes and experiences around.

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