Together with our partners, we trained nearly 130 tourism operators on best practices for coral reef conservation throughout México, Belize and Honduras this year.
Each year, about 22 million people visit Quintana Roo, México. The Caribbean coastline offers beautiful clear blue waters, white sand beaches, and easy access to the second-largest reef system in the world—the Mesoamerican Reef.
The tourism industry takes a heavy toll on the nearshore reefs. But with our local partners, Amigos de Sian Ka’an and Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas, or CONANP), we’re working to build a more sustainable tourism industry.
Together, we’re training tourism operators throughout the region on sustainable practices and ways to protect coral reefs. Our partners provide tourism operators with tools on how to work within marine protected areas and how to improve business models as sustainable tourism operators.
The trainings used to be in person, but with COVID-19 they are now all virtual. And the virtual format is working—at the September workshop, the fifth workshop in 12 months, nearly 25 tourism operators joined. This year alone we’ve trained nearly 130 tourism operators in Quintana Roo, Belize and Honduras. The workshop follows a train-the-trainer format, so participants learn how to bring what they learn back to their communities and help educate others and create lasting change.
Many tourism operators know their marine environment like the back of their hand—but they don’t always understand the resource they rely on. This training is often their first formal introduction to coral reefs and why they’re important.
“I’ve been working all these years on the reef, and I always just thought they were rocks and I could step on them and nothing would happen,” says Victor Barreda, one of the participants at the September training. Victor used to be a fisher, but with fish resources becoming more and more scarce and unreliable, he now runs a tourism operation in Quintana Roo. “Thanks to this presentation, now I know.”
These trainings not only build a more sustainable tourism industry, but they also help us build a local network of coral reef supporters and partners. These partners will be instrumental down the line in helping us reduce other threats to reefs, like overfishing and poor water quality.