Preventing overtourism in the Riviera Maya
Around the globe people are taking note about overtourism. In places like Venice, Italy, Barcelona, Spain, and Boracay, Philippines the stress of too many tourist are pushing residents and resources to a limit. Residents are asking for changes and governments are scrambling to come up with regulations.
With access to affordable flights for most people, it is easy to jet away to that Instgramable destination. The most popular destinations though, are only large enough for a limited amount people. Natural resources become stretched, environmental issues are raised and residents are pushing back.
Since Playa Del Carmen and the Riviera Maya are popular destinations, can there be a breaking point? What places here are seeing a strain now due to high tourist visitation? What is being done now to make sure resources are in place for an increasing tourist demand? How can we personally do something to reduce our impact and keep this beautiful destination for being on the list of places with overtourism problems? We will discuss this all below.
What places in our area are most at risk to overtourism?
Here are some of the more at risk places which tend to be environmentally sensitive areas. We could include how tourism effect local culture and traditions but that is a whole other article.
Akumal and swimming with the turtles
It seems that every week we get emails asking about swimming with the turtles. This has become so popular that in recent years there have been many problems with overtourism. Too many people were coming. Efforts have been made to limited the amount of tours daily as well as other restrictions. It got to the point that people would sneak out to snorkel without guides or some tour guides would payoff the guards to allow an extra tour in.
How you can help
There are several other places where you can visit sea turtle and even swim with them. Tulum for example has a fisherman’s cooperative that organizes tours of the reef. Here you have a good chance to see a turtle. Puerto Morales also has a large reef where you can see turtles while swimming. Xcaret Park has a whole sea turtle conservation program. You can see them and learn about them there.
Nature is delicate especialy when walked on or touched repeatedly. Many tours and local spots that tourist visit have posted requirements and instructions. These are posted to help preserve the natural places and avoid the effects of overtourism. Here are a few notable things to observe when visiting the Riviera Maya.
- If visiting the coral reefs, do not touch them. We have been on many tours where someone touches or accidently kicks the coral with a flipper. This can kill the coral or damage it taking years to repair.
- Observe the chemical free sunscreen request. Especially at risk places like cenotes and reefs are damaged by the chemicals. Don’t just think “It is just me this once” or “I don’t want to spend more for non toxic sunscreen“. We have revisited cenotes and seen a difference in quality of the water. Some cenotes do not effectively state that you should not wear the sunscreen and some staff does not mention it. However we can all do our part to keep these beautiful places clean.
Lower your impact of your vacation
Here are a few suggestions how we all can lower the effect of our travels. Anyone of these can help reduce the effects of overtourism.
- If you are staying in a condo rental, be considerate of the neighbors. Many buildings are mixed use with residents and tourist.
- Look at taking a vacation in a lower season. This can save you money at lower peak times. The nice thing about the Riviera Maya is the weather is good year round so it does not matter as much when you come.
- In your hotel, consider energy usage especially when not in the room. Have towels and linens washed only when needed.
- Limit take out containers, drinking straws and unnecessary trash that will add to the trash.
- Buy local. Not only are your supporting local craftsmen but you are helping preserve local culture in a small way.
- Ask questions and comment. Hold tour companies and hotels accountable for sustainable and clean practices. If managers hear that people are aware and comment, they will be more likely to keep or implement good sustainable policies.
- Don’t expect everything to be just like where you came from. Embrace local culture. This can be with regard to food, hotels, and types of things you will see.
The Riviera Maya and all the places that make it up are special. So many of you love coming yearly or even more often. It is no doubt you have seen Playa Del Carmen and the area change. It is growing as a place to live and vacation in. The lessons are out there with what can happen with overtourism. We can all work to preserve the area and make sure that tourism does not become a breaking point for the area.
Feel free to leave your comments below about ideas how tourism can keep benefiting the are and not damage it.
If you have enjoyed this article you might like to read our article on ecotourism in Mexico here.