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Yucatan Faces Challenge of How to Protect Its Attractions with Influx of Tourists

Yang Yi - Xinhua
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October 11, 2017

2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (Tequila es Mexico)

Morning dawns on Mayan lands, north of the Yucatan peninsula. The sun illuminates a giant poplar that guards a secret beneath its roots: the cenote of Kankirixche, a cave with a pool of crystalline water reaching 50 meters down.

Inside this wide pit of stone, catfish swim in the deep as swallows nest in the ceiling made of stalactites. Everything seems nature-made, except for a 35-step wooden staircase that serves to access the spectacle.

Outside, Jose Arceo Ku Ucan, a 62-year-old Mayan citizen, receives visitors and charges them 20 pesos (around one U.S. dollar) to enter. He said the cenote was a secret until two years ago when the small community of Uayalceh agreed to open it to the public.

"There are Sundays when 100 cars arrive," said the Mayan, who was resting in the shade of a tree 15 blocks away from the cenote. Near the well, the only traces of human presence are restrooms and a restaurant built with the support of the government of Yucatan.

Kankirixche is only an example of how Yucatan is seeking to sustainably maximize its natural attractions where the Mayan civilization prospered almost 2,000 years ago.

The director of Planning, Evaluation and Monitoring for the Yucatan Secretariat of Tourism (Sefotur), Raul Paz, explains that community ecotourism projects have almost doubled from 35 to more than 63 in the last five years.

Through funding and support by the federal and state governments, infrastructure has been built, people have been trained to care for the sites or manage tourists, and projects are being promoted online and offline. "We have worked on improving the urban image, the construction of hotels and training tourism professionals within community projects that benefit Mayan speakers," said Paz.

The Sefotur official says that Yucatan receives 1.5 million tourists a year, who on average spend at least one night in the local hotels.

But Yucatan now faces the challenge of reconciling how to best protect its attractions with the increasing influx of tourists, which make up over 10 percent of its economy.

Read the rest at Xinhua

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