The tourism development model employed in the Riviera Nayarit by the National Tourism Promotion Fund, known as Fonatur, is being questioned by some entrepreneurs, who are calling for the “sustainable management of urban tourism.”
“What Fonatur does is urbanize a stretch of land, putting four or five global, all-inclusive chain hotel projects in it,” said an environmental advisor to Canacintra, an organization representing industrial interests, who gave as an example the tourist developments in Nuevo Vallarta, Bahía de Banderas and Punta Mita.
The area between Puerto Vallarta and Tepic has the physical capacity to accommodate 1.6 million visitors per year, but the figure is usually over 2 million, said Francisco Fernández.
In most cases, visitors stay in all-inclusive hotels and the economic impact is less than significant for the surrounding towns, he explained.
Representatives of Tierra Tropical, an ecotourism firm, said the region receives almost 2 million visitors a year and the economy is growing at 14% annually.
Approximately 38 billion pesos (over US $2 billion) was invested in tourism in the region during the last year, an industry that has become the source of 80% of all jobs in that part of the country.
But the popularity of the Riviera Nayarit has had a negative impact on fragile ecological areas such as the Marieta Islands, a natural protected area and national park.
The size of the hotels and the number of visitors create problems in solid waste management, over-exploitation of aquifers and a loss of forest areas.
“There’s still a chance, beginning from the area around Sayulita and moving southwards, to shift the development model towards a low-density one, focusing on the value of the natural stock and proper management of biodiversity, taking advantage of renewable energy sources, ecological technologies, and measures geared towards alleviating the stress on aquifers,” said Alejandro Angulo of Tierra Tropical.
Consideration of the tourism model and the ecological impact of the area’s tourism development will be the focus of an environmental forum November 10 and 11.
Organizers will aim to identify common goals, such as the creation of biodiversity preservation programs and trying to keep large hotel developments from regions like those surrounding San Pancho and Sayulita.