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Community Tours Sian Ka'an builds a successful business model

August 1, 2007

In spite of the massive increase in tourism over the past decade, the local people of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, most of whom are indigenous Mayan, have not benefited directly from the increased tourism revenue in the region.

Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO World Heritage site located south of Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Coastal development, over-fishing and damage to the coral reefs are just some of the threats to the fragile ecosystem. For that reason, we provided critical support to Community Tours Sian Ka’an (CTSK)—a local, predominantly Mayan-owned tourism cooperative—committed to providing environmentally friendly tours. 

Without the coral reefs, mangroves, clear deep-water pools and forests, the Mayans will be unable to provide food, shelter and jobs to their families. The members of Community Tours Sian Ka’an arrange tours, employ local guides and contract with local hotels and restaurants.

“The vast majority of CTSK visitors have never visited a World Heritage site and they don’t know what to expect, but along the day, they recognize the beauty and importance of Sian Ka’an and they come to recognize that our local Mayan guides are the most valuable human resource," said Manuel Quezada, the marketing and sales coordinator of CTSK.

Since the project launched, CTSK has experienced revenue growth of more than 125 percent, and was recognized as a finalist for the prestigious Equator Prize, which is given biannually to the world’s most innovative community sustainable development project initiatives. CTSK’s high-quality tour services have also earned it a spot on the Condè Nast “Green List” in 2006.

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Editor's Note: Our Friends of World Heritage and World Heritage Alliance Initiatives culminated in 2010 after four years of successful collaborations.