Eco Boom South of the Border

eco boom

April 23, 2018


Last week I spent a good amount of my free time packing and getting ready for a move to a “new” apartment. As I went through my belongings, I came across old electronic devices and a collection of cords that had fallen into the category of obsolete. My stock of discards steadily increased, and I became increasingly pleased that my apartment complex provided the option of recycling items that otherwise would end in a landfill. Being in this environmentally conscious mindset made me think of a special place south of the border where warm waters and nature abound.


Many people will be familiar with a small town south of Cancun in the Riviera Maya called Tulum. This town is attractive to tourists for several reasons. It has beautiful beaches and the well preserved remains of a walled Mayan city. In addition, a very important part of the appeal is the “hippie” vibe of Tulum that comes from the beauty of the surrounding area. Yet, many come for the nature.  The Tulum district has the UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an providing eco tours for the environmentally conscious traveler. Sian Ka’an is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna and is now the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean.  Nature tours into the lagoons and coastal wetlands of the reserve appeal to the nature lover.

Tulum has seen more growth in the past 10 years than any other place in the area, with 4.7 million tourists visiting the region in 2016. This quiet town in the middle of the jungle has now more than 120 5,000-room resorts that receive guests from all over the world.  Some of these resorts even lack of electricity services as part of their eco-friendly appeal. With this rapid growth and uncontrolled development, most hotel groups look for a return on investment of two to three years. The resorts stay mostly booked all year round, and rates can go up to several thousand dollars a night during the peak season.  All of this growth has caused Cancun’s airport to become the second busiest in Mexico.

What once was an undeveloped town with no international attention has now become one of the most expensive places to live in Mexico. Tulum appeals not only to the eco-chic crowd that travel/live under a budget, but also to the luxury resort adventure seekers. It all depends on how lavishly or inexpensively you’d like for it to be. From snorkeling, to spa days, to hot yoga, this town covers all travelers’ desires.

Eco-tourism has become an important revenue driver in Mexico. Tourism contributes $19.6 billion to Mexico’s economy, which is equal to about 7% of its GDP and almost 8% of total employment. Whether it is in Mexico’s newly developed paradise, or any other vacation destination, one thing remains true – we need to put in our two cents to preserve our planet. Reduce, reuse, and recycle should be part of our traditions.

Nirvanna Silva