Posted by: Bob Fisher | May 11, 2009

Smart Growth Tourism on Mexico’s Riviera Maya


… Chatting with Bonnie Neely about the Riviera Maya

Principles and practices

In urban planning, smart growth has been the way to go for quite some time now. Essential to the principles and practices of smart urban growth is the transportation theory that concentrates growth in the center of a city thus (one hopes) avoiding urban sprawl. Of course, it’s easier said than done; and many cities continue to struggle with the concept. But if we reach for the stars we may get the moon. (Actually, come to think of it, we already have.)

Smart growth also emphasizes efficient land use and efficient use of all resources. It is also very much about the integration of natural resources and natural spaces with man-made ones, thus creating a people-first and people-friendly environment that is sustainable; as well as being and one in which natural growth and consequently integrated human culture is perpetuated.

This is a long-range development concept that has very important implications for the world of travel and tourism; from entire nations — emerging regions and nations especially — to local communities. It has of course important implications for the hospitality industry as well, and smart growth is increasingly a fundamental element in the design of hotels and resorts around the world.

Valuing long-range local and regional considerations, smart growth in the travel and tourism industry also focuses on the immediate, short-term decisions that are made; the critical “here and now.” The ultimate goals are to preserve a unique sense of community and and a distinct sense of place.

Touristy is as touristy does

In our chat, I ask Bonnie to what extent Riviera Maya is “touristy.” Often the word touristy has a rather pejorative sense. However, when a destination markets itself to the world — tourism is one of the main sources of income for many national, regional, and local economies — and if that marketing and development follow smart growth principles and practices, its “touristy” appeal and nature certainly benefit all parties concerned. As a “service provider,” the travel and tourism industry can be the most experiential form of learning.


Riviera Maya

All Tour Native

Coba Pac Chen

The Mandarin Oriental Maya Riviera

Sian Ka’an UNESCO Biosphere


… at

Yucatan Exploration of Mayan Archeological Sites

Photo courtesy of and copyright of Bonnie and Bill Neely.


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