In 2008 Tourism Concern joined with Mexican NGO, Sectur, and the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), to conduct a pilot project to promote better understanding of the social, cultural and economic impacts of tourism amongst community-based tourism enterprises in Mexico. The project was undertaken in partnership with the Puerta Verde Ecotourism Network in Quintana Roo and RECT in Tuxtlas, Veracruz.
The aim was to ensure that local communities nurture and protect their social, cultural, economic and environmental resources while benefiting from sustainable tourism. Cultural and social cohesion, and environmental protection, are critical if communities are to achieve this.
This project is a great example of how campaigning is not necessarily taking action ‘against’ a wrong but can also be action to champion what is right.
The initial project phase involved training Mexican co-researchers in participative research techniques. This was followed by a pilot needs analysis. Interviews were conducted with women, men and children in six villages in the state of Quintana Roo in order to ascertain levels of understanding of the social and cultural impacts of tourism. This included people working in tourism and other members of the communities.
Tourism Concern used the research results to produce a training manual. This was used to train a group of trainers to work with communities to analyse the various issues. Participants were encouraged to look at ways to evaluate current practices against relevant ‘benchmark’ standards. Guidance on how to raise current standards and minimise negative socio-cultural impacts of tourism was provided. Issues discussed included:
- land rights
- carrying capacity
- social cohesion
- positive interaction with tourists
- tourism in a mixed economy
- interpretation of identity, language and culture
- equitable relations with tour operators and marketing.
Further research was conducted to evaluate the programme’s effectiveness in bringing about positive change. The training manual can now be used to replicate the process by the Mexican Government across the country. The manual can also be used by other communities wishing to improve their sociocultural sustainability in tourism.