Along the Riviera Maya of Mexico’s
Yucatan Peninsula, across the water from Cozumel, sits Mayakoba. It’s a
rare place that couples luxury and nature. Here, some of the world’s
leading luxury hotels and most exclusive residences intermingle with
crystal clear lagoons, mangrove forests, and white sand beaches.
“All along the Riviera Maya you can
find different hotels,” says Lyn Santos, ecology manager of the Fairmont
Mayakoba, who has been with the Mayakoba project since before any
hotels were open. “But it’s not a ‘green’ destination because of
practices. It is a ‘green’ destination because of the nature we have.”
Santos says that the nature of the
area has attracted many hotel developers. Mayakoba was developed to take
advantage of the area’s 40 square hectares of mangrove forest and
jungle, and its beautiful Caribbean beachfront. But one developer saw
something more in the area, beyond its beaches.
OHL Development created the Mayakoba
Ecotourism Complex, which is aimed at environmental respect and the
incorporation of infrastructure into the natural surroundings while
protecting ecosystems. “The idea of Mayakoba in general terms was to
build something that will last for many, many years,” Santos says. “It
was not only to integrate the nature but also to integrate function.”
The Fairmont Mayakoba was the first
hotel to be located in the complex, and Rosewood and Banyan Tree have
also located hotels here.
“When they started development one
of the main focuses was to build 90 percent of the infrastructure behind
the mangrove forest,” Santos says. That is a much different approach
than the regular development of Mayakoba and Riviera Maya, which often
focus on the pristine Caribbean beaches of the coast.
“Normally, you find ocean view rooms on the Riviera, but in here, 90 percent of the rooms are not ocean view,” Santos says.
But that’s exactly the idea of the
complex—to not only show off the ecology of the area as a “green”
destination, but also to help protect the mangrove forest.
When the complex was first
developed, measures to protect the area where taken into consideration
in the design and construction. “They were really innovative when they
started in 1998, and almost no one wanted to invest because they wanted
to have the beach,” Santos says. “When Fairmont decided to invest in
this concept of spread out casitas or houses around the jungle, one of
the reason was that it was congruent with its green partnership
Fairmont is well known for its
pioneering green initiatives. Fairmont Mayakoba takes the concept even
further. “When the hotel opened, it applied all of the green standards
of the company—recycling, energy management, all the basic things that
now everyone does. And then, we grew the program involving organizations
like local communities, the government; we are getting involved in many
green activities with many partners.”
The efforts have paid off. The
Rainforest Alliance has recognized the achievements of Fairmont
Mayakoba, as part of the Mayakoba region, for sustainable tourism
practices. With this award the Mayakoba Tourism Development with its
three properties— Fairmont Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba and Banyan Tree
Mayakoba— becomes the first tourism resort ever honored in the category.
The complex also fits in very well
with Mexico’s recent announcement that it plans to market itself in a
new destination marketing campaign.
But has the complex succeeded in
becoming a viable tourism destination? “I think it’s in the process of
becoming that,” Santos says, “because there are many measures being
applied by the government, but if all of the new developers follow these
measures for building eco-friendly properties, we will become a really
nice, green tourist destination.”
Santos says that in order to
succeed, the Mayakoba complex must be committed to preserving the
surrounding environment. “We depend on the nature here. We depend on the
resources we have,” she says.
Over the next few years, the complex’s development will be key for its
future, particularly in how it turns out. But with a unique draw for
tourists increasingly concerned about the environment, the Mayakoba
Ecotourism Complex is bringing out the beauty of Riviera Maya, even away
from its beaches.