Guidelines for Low-Impact Tourism Along the Coast of Quintana Roo
January 3, 2004 5:02 AM   Subscribe

Guidelines for Low-Impact Tourism Along the Coast of Quintana Roo "Conserving the natural landscape and enhancing the scenic beauty of tourism development contributes to the high quality of coastal habitat, one of the area’s principal attractions." Warning: PDF format!
posted by johnnydark (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've recently spent a month traveling around Yucatan peninsula, with almost a week of it in Quintana Roo. I can honestly say I have never seen the coastline that is s beautiful, majestic and densely inhabited by wildlife before. The Caribbean sea hosts an amazing ecosphere along its shores and the reef (2nd largest in the world). It is absolutely a shame to see how much human real estate development is allowed to go on along the Mexican coast of it, though. The Northernmost tip of it is Cancun a planned city of 400,000 inhabitants that is all of 20 years old and is the whirlpool of filth that is mass tourism, and then the density gradually recedes as you head South. Along the way are the extensively terraformed "amusement parks" of Xelha and Xcaret, former backpacker/diver paradise cum tourism mecca of Cosumel island and miles and miles of gorgeous coastline (which, sadly, my advertisement-polluted brain can best describe as "it looks like Corona commericals!").

To be fair, the Mexican government is showing some backbone lately protecting Q. Roo coastline from commercial development South of, say, Tulum (home to one of the most gorgeous Maya ruins set on the sea). I suspect that the legislators are doing that anticipating further demand, having already pretty much given up on eco-anything around Cancun and thereabouts.

Trivia fact: the state of Quintana Roo is named after Andres Quintana Roo, whom I understand to be one of the drafters of Mexican constitution.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 11:20 AM on January 3, 2004

Remember, Don't Fuck with the Quintana Roo.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:34 AM on January 3, 2004

I dive Cozumel which is right off the coast from Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan and many of the locals claim that one of the major things keeping things nice in the area is that President Vincente Fox is also a scuba diver and after having been diving in Cozumel he declaired the entire area a marine sanctuary which makes it illegal to hunt or take fish commercially. The local divemasters are also very strict about touching coral or in any way disturbing the underwater environment. They are one of the many places that has the "no gloves" rule which is meant to discourage touching of the marine life by prohibiting divers from entering the water with gloves on so that the fear of fire coral or other nasty irratations will make them a little more careful.
posted by billman at 11:49 AM on January 3, 2004

Ummm Tulum is actually one of the ONLY Mayan ruins on the sea. Belize has some close to the sea, but I believe Tulum is the only one right on the sea.
posted by Eekacat at 5:28 PM on January 3, 2004

Eekacat: missing comma. I meant "home to one of the most gorgeous Maya ruins, set on the sea".
posted by blindcarboncopy at 7:50 PM on January 3, 2004

I second blindcarboncopy's impressions. Even though we were only there on a much briefer visit, I can attest to the fact that the Q. Roo coastline south of Cancun is both incredibly beautiful (the beach near our cabana at Tulum was so like a "desert island" scene that it was difficult for my own ad-polluted brain to accept that it was, you know, real) and also just about ready to be destroyed by the development of the very tourist industry that brought me there (to be fair, we did try to go as much the eco-tourist route as possible, given our slackadaisical and non-camping ways, but still, we were contributing in our own way to the buildup, adding to the size of the market of folks who bring in much-needed money).

All down the coast at least as far as the big nature preserve which is south of Tulum, there are innumerable big resorts going up. Each one means less mangrove jungle on the coastline, and the mangroves and the reefs (which are the particular draw for so many divers and snorkelers) are symbiotically linked -- the mangrove keeps the reef alive.

So, the controls on fishing and dive practices are a laudable part of what needs to be done, but it's the pace and scale of coastal development that really needs to be made sustainable. And that's, I'll wager, a tough program to enforce in an area that's badly in need of tourist dollars (even if the lion's share of the money winds up elsewhere, I didn't see a lot of opportunity for coastal Yucatecans to earn a living outside of the tourist industry). But if they aren't careful, the rush to pack in as many tourists as possible will destroy the very thing that brings so many people down.

(That said, if you have never been, and you do go, don't miss out on the cenotes -- freshwater pool/caves that are an interesting contrast to swimming in the ocean)
posted by BT at 10:37 PM on January 3, 2004

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