Mexico Expands its Commitment to Sustainable Tourism

By: Erick Laseca

Mexico pledges once again its commitment to sustainable tourism by introducing new market-driven, economic opportunities that support conservation and community development.? The Mexico Tourism Board and other Mexicans governmental tourism entities, in conjunction with the World Heritage Alliance (WHA), Expedia, Inc. and the United Nations Foundation, have initiated an educational partnership program for Expedia representatives and members of local communities in Mexico to ensure the protection of the delicate biodiversity, while empowering the rural communities through entrepreneurship.?

Earlier this year, Expedia employees traveled to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to work with Community Tours Sian Ka'an (CTSK) -- a local, predominantly Mayan- owned tourism cooperative working to ensure protection of the delicate mix of coral reefs, mangroves, clear deep water pools, and forests, which are increasingly drawing tourists southward from nearby Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

“We are very excited and proud of the benefits that our small local communities are receiving," commented Mexico Tourism Board CEO, Francisco Lopez Mena on the Community Tours Sian Ka’an.? “CTSK is a perfect example of how we can empower a local community with the right entrepreneurial skills, while at the same time protecting the environment and offering visitors a rich and fulfilling experience," stated Lopez Mena.

A representative of CTSK, Manuel Quezada IX, was recently a panelist during the United Nations’ Dialogue for the Future: Indigenous Entrepreneurship Forum organized with Aveda, Inc., to discuss issues related to indigenous entrepreneurship, opportunities and challenges.? Satisfyingly, CTSK has experienced revenue growth of more than 125 percent, and it was recently recognized with the prestigious Equator Prize, given biannually to the world's most innovative community sustainable development project initiatives.

"Tourism is fundamental for creating a constituency for conservation," said Mexico Tourism Secretary Rodolfo Elizondo, “It is important for us as leaders in this industry, to empower our local communities and bring significant changes, financial and environmental benefits for all to enjoy," added Elizondo.

In 2006 and under Elizondo’s leadership, Mexico became a member of the World Heritage Alliance (WHA), as the first national tourism secretariat to ever join an organization as such.? By signing an agreement with the WHA, the country reiterates its commitment to the promotion and preservation of Mexico’s 26 World Heritage sites.?

Mexico is ranked first in the Americas and eighth worldwide in UNESCO sites, a distinction given to places of historical, cultural and natural relevance to the world.

The country’s islands and protected areas in the Gulf of Baja California, declared a World Heritage Site in 2005, are the most recent addition to Mexico’s impressive list.

Pueblos Magicos Initiative

Another initiative undertaken by the Mexican government is the Pueblos Magicos Program.? Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat’s (Sectur) Pueblos Magicos program helps increase tourism to towns located near large cities or other tourist sites, reasonably accessible via roads and that are of particular historic or religious value.? Founded in 2001, the Pueblos Magicos program coordinates local, state and federal efforts, channeling funds so the towns may diversify and improve their tourism infrastructure and help inhabitants economically.

While the primary focus of Pueblos Magicos is to develop cultural tourism, other segments, such as eco tourism, adventure tourism and rural tourism also fall under the program’s canopy. As the towns develop the products offered in the different segments, sustainable tourism is cultivated. The program empowers the townspeople, who must initiate and manage the process.? Once a town is declared a Pueblo Magico, it receives funds to support the modernization of the micro, small and medium regional businesses related to the tourism industry, such as handicraft shops and restaurants.? These grassroots efforts contribute to the tourism sector’s vitality and creativity as well as promote the entrepreneurial spirit.

About the Mexico Tourism Board

The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico's tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB is Mexico’s tourism promotion agency, and its participants include members of both the private and public sectors. The MTB has offices throughout North America, EuropeArticle Submission, Asia and Latin America.

Erick Laseca

Mexico Tourism Board

312-228-0571 ext14

erick.laseca@bm.com

http://www.visitmexico.com

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