|World Heritage Alliance Workshops Reach Hotel and Tourism Operators in Mexico|
The tourism boom in Mexico is far from over, despite the global economic downturn and the short-term impacts of the swine flu. Twenty-three million U.S. citizens live less than 7 hours drive from the Mexican border; tourism revenues in the Gulf of California region are estimated at $3.44 billion in 2001 and $3.85 billion in 2006.
In fact, tourism is considered by many as the main economic driver in the region, overshadowing commercial fishing and aquaculture. The challenge is to help decision-makers in the public and private sectors solicit tourism development projects and services that are in line with a local community vision, generate local revenue and jobs, and minimize impacts on natural and cultural resources.
Today, tourists seek the quiet lifestyle, the fertile fishing grounds, marine wildlife sightings, and the dramatic landscapes in Baja California Sur, Mexico. To protect these assets, there are multiple protected areas and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Whale Sanctuaries of the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, the Cave Paintings in the Sierra de San Francisco, and the Islands of the Gulf of California. All of these could suffer irreversible damage from poorly managed tourism development in the region.
In early June, the World Heritage Alliance – a membership organization founded by Expedia and the United Nations Foundation and comprised of business leaders in the tourism sector – hosted three workshops in Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, and Loreto in Baja California Sur, Mexico, to educate local operators about the World Heritage Sites and how to promote, visit, and protect them. As a WHA Associate Member, the International Community Foundation helped plan the workshops and invited local stakeholders and speakers.
The Foundation also provided a grant to the Rainforest Alliance to add a one-day session that addressed sustainable tourism practices and described the “certification” process to local businesses. The Foundation brought two WHA members from Cancun and Costa Rica, Fairmont Mayakoba Hotel and Green Hotels, to share their experience in increasing the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of those businesses. Finally, the Foundation asked one of its grantees in La Paz, Comunidad Vision y Desarollo (COVYDE), to interview the WHA team for its weekly television program, “Gente de Palabra.” These interviews will air locally over a two-week period in June.
Over 75 businesses attended the three workshops with enthusiasm for the World Heritage Sites and increased interested in “green” certification and other sustainable practices. The International Community Foundation is hopeful that by increasing better practices in the private sector and educating tourists about these measures, it can encourage the public sector to be more proactive on regulatory and policy innovations that will make a positive impact on the future of tourism in the region.