MEXICO CITY – A Mexican expert on Wednesday stressed the need to promote alternative tourism options that ensure sustainability and directly benefit local populations.
Ulyses Huesca, director of eco-tour agency Ecoguerreros Yucatan, said in an interview with EFE that in contrast to the high socio-economic and environmental impact of mass, conventional tourism, alternative tourism offers activities in small groups and provides experiences that better capitalize on ecosystems’ aesthetic, recreational and cultural services.
“That’s why the United Nations declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism (for Development),” he said.
Huesca, who has been working for the past 12 years with communities devoted to alternative tourism, says the key to success lies in training local organizations.
“With better nature management practices, greater benefits can be obtained,” he said.
Huesca’s work in in Mexico’s southeast region led him to publish a book on alternative tourism that recounts the experiences of 14 companies focused on local development, environmental protection and the promotion of Mayan culture.
Recreational fishing, Caribbean pink flamingo sightseeing tours, mangrove kayaking expeditions, cenotes (sinkholes) and coastal springs are some of the natural attractions of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula region.
Mexico received 35 million international visitors last year, 25 percent of whom (8.7 million) participated in at least one activity related to nature or rural tourism.
Huesca, however, said much work remains to be done in consolidating tourism companies, particularly in linking them to cooperatives and strengthening ties between the service provider and potential tourists.
“Humanity would take an enormous leap forward” if the tourism sector were to become alternative, he said, adding that it would then become sustainable economically and in terms of nature conservation.
It is important that existing alternative tourism options take in more revenue and gain greater market share since they are still greatly overshadowed by conventional tourism, Huesca said.