NOTE: When discussing the “benefits” of tourism, it is critically important to also recognize the many harms that come from tourism. The HMB Sargassum Project is addressing the sargassum crisis as a problem for the environment as much as a problem for tourism because we believe:
Sargasso mitigation can and must be an important first step in getting our community to focus on “Sustainable Tourism”.
As detailed in this article, planning for sustainable tourism would allow Akumal Norte to build on and protect the elements that make our community such a unique place by attracting visitors who want to “give back” and engage in TRUE eco-tourism (not the hipster version of eco-tourism that is destroying Tulum!!) If we don’t take care of the environment, ourselves, how can we expect tourists (and the businesses who serve them) to care?
BAD RAP AS TROPICAL PARADISE
Complaints about sargassum from returning vacationers often light up social media and (ultimately) convince other potential visitors to pick an alternative destination. Who would want to visit after reading “Nature May Ruin Your Beach Trip” or listening to the commentary at minute 2:45 in this video from Tangerine Travelers? And even after the sargassum recedes, problems with beach erosion, reef degradation, and declining marine life makes beaches like HMB less desirable destinations. CLOSED OR SHABBY ATTRACTIONS & RESTAURANTS
Falling bookings and arrivals can have enormous financial impact on tour companies, restaurants, hotels, and other local businesses who are unable to keep up with repairs and who may even be forced to close.
In 2019 cancellations related to sargassum totaled nearly $12m, according to industry data. And just last month Ben Brenson, a visitor to HMB from Chicago acknowledged that, had he not been attending a wedding, “we probably would have chosen a different destination”. Yes, bookings are up in 2022, mostly because travelers are thrilled to be escaping pandemic travel restrictions. But as more visitors learn about sargassum invasion AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES, our beaches seem less and less like paradise.
DECREASED & DIVERTED REVENUE
In 2019 the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Center reported that governments spent about$120 million trying to clean Caribbean beaches, with limited success. And this estimate does not include the amount that private beach front companies paid to clean their own beachfront every day, which is estimated to run <$60,000> annually for <###> feet of shore front. The money invested in beach cleanup gets diverted from other projects. And declining overall revenue from tourism makes things even worse.
DOWNWARD CYCLE AND JOB LOSS
The downward cycle and job loss often leads to increased crime. Even before the pandemic struck in 2019, Yucatan saw a 3.4% drop in jobs.