Riviera Maya's New Role as Ecotourism Hub

By Mandy Chomat Executive VP of Sales & Marketing, Karisma Hotels & Resorts | May 26, 2013

One of the world's most desirable tourist destinations, the Riviera Maya spans nearly 100 miles of the Caribbean coastline in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, located on the eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula. The region offers an unparalleled variety of stunning landscapes and natural beauty, from white-sand beaches and crystal blue water to jungles, cenotes, mangroves, inlets, lagoons, and barrier reefs, including the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is the world's second largest reef and stretches from Mexico to Panama. It is also the celebrated home of ancient Mayan archeological sites such as Tulum and Chichen Itza – which was named one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Riviera Maya was largely isolated for many years until the development of Cancun as a tourist destination in the 1970's. Over the past two decades, the Riviera Maya has grown exponentially in popularity, appealing to travelers who seek an alternative to the mega-resorts of Cancun. In 2011, a record-breaking 12 million tourists visited Riviera Maya with 13 million expected to visit the region this year. Located twenty minutes south of the Cancun International Airport and with year-round temperatures in the mid-80's, Riviera Maya has become one of North America's most convenient and popular destinations, featuring recreational activities, nature, culture, and hospitality that appeals to every type of traveler.

Additionally, Riviera Maya's biodiversity and varied ecosystems are unique draws for travelers, and the destination's ecological parks and reserves – including Xel-Ha, Xcaret, and Sian Ka'an – are some of the most popular activities. As the number of visitors to the region increases, it is essential to preserve and protect the area's natural resources and beauty, which raises the topic of ecologically responsible tourism, or ecotourism.

Getting Involved: How to Start a Green Program

I would suggest that hotels and resorts looking to establish an eco-friendly initiative seek out reputable organizations that promote environmental responsibility. Hospitality companies can look to the organizations – whether it be a national institute such as the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) or a regional cause – for the various elements required to enact a successful green program. We have found this connection to be crucial as the organization provides a set of standards and practices to adhere to, therefore enhancing the credibility of your company and program.

The MesoAmerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI) is a collaborative initiative that aims to ensure that the spectacular natural resources that draw millions of tourists to the MesoAmerican Reef each year are maintained and enhanced for the benefit of current and future generations. MARTI engages leaders from both the public and private sectors in key tourism industries, including hotels, cruises, and marine recreation operators, in order to fulfill its goal of integrating sound natural resources management and sustainable practices into Riviera Maya tourism development and operations by 2016.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.