HOLBOX, Mexico – The lack of basic services like electricity and a sufficient drinking water supply could cause the tropical paradise of Holbox Island in southeastern Mexico to be closed to tourists, according to directors of tourism and social organizations.
Barbara Hernandez, president of the Holbox Hotel Association, told reporters this Monday that the brief closure of the dock last weekend was meant to be a “wake-up call” for the authorities involved, and warned that a repeat of that measure for keeping tourists away remains a possibility if there is another water shortage.
“We had the dock closed down from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm as a wake-up call to say that survival is now an emergency here. No water, no electricity – if we add the fact that we have poor communications, that we often have neither Internet nor telephone service, it’s a terrible situation,” she said.
Located off the northeastern coast of the Yucutan Peninsula on the western rim of the Caribbean, Holbox Island is part of both the Yum Balam Reserve and the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve.
With land covering 55,948 sq. kilometers (21,601 sq. miles) and separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide that is home to more than 150 bird species like flamingos, pelicans and other exotic creatures, the island is a growing tourist attraction for both adventures and relaxing.
Faced with the broken-down services on Holbox Island, a group of officials from Quintana Roo state and the municipality of Lazaro Cardenas held an emergency meeting last Saturday night with local authorities, with whom they agreed on an immediate restoration of the drinking water supply and the launch this Monday of a series of works including the sewage system. That was when the dock-closing threat of keeping away tourist dollars was hatched.
In that regard, Alejandrina Selem, president of the Holbox Development Council, told the press conference that after a week without a drinking water supply and constant power outages, local authorities announced the closure of the port to keep tourists away.
“The most urgent problem to solve is the water shortage. The head of CAPA (the state commission of drinking water and sewage), Gerardo de la Mora, came here thinking that with six tanker trucks the problem could be solved because he didn’t understand its magnitude,” Selem said.
She complained that despite the large amount of currency brought in by Holbox Island from tourism, it only has a budget of 42,000 Mexican pesos ($2,354) a month to provide all its public services.
“It’s well known that Holbox brings in a lot of money that goes to the municipality” but it gives very little back, she said.