Social Media Community Tourism in the Maya communities of Chichen Itza & Piste / Sustainable Community Tourism is an Indiana University IU Service Learning Program in Yucatan. Indiana University Bloomington taught by Quetzil Castaneda / Heritage Service Learning Field Study Abroad / Summer Study Abroad / Heritage Development Studies, Tourism Studies. Field School. Field Study Abroad. Mexico. community action research, participatory research, participatory anthropology, New Seven Wonders of the World. Mexico, Chichen Itza. Yokdzonot Cenote, Maya Wellness Center. Yokdzonot Eco-Adventure, Responsible Tourism, Ethical Travel, Alternative Tourism in Yucatan
Interview with Dr. Quetzil Castañeda by Rebecca Hecker, writer at The Playa Times, an English language newspaper covering Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya.
June 12, 2015
Your summer program is a 5 week course for students that is spent here in the Yucatan Peninsula. Tell us more about the program and what your students experience during the 5 weeks.
We are just now completed the first year of an ongoing course in community tourism marketing. The students engage community partners such as Cenote Yokdzonot and the loncherias of Pisté, Yucatán to help them create sustainable development in their tourism business. The students work closely with community members to give them training in branding their tourism services and destinations. The idea is that for small businesses to compete with the eventual corporate investment in these Maya communities, they need help to understand how to brand and market themselves on the internet. Students created web presence with websites and profiles on Trip Advisor as well as re-designed menus for the loncherias.
What kinds of opportunities for sustainable tourism have you determined are effective for the local communities you work with?
In a place like Pisté, only 3 kms from Chichén Itzá, just like Tulum, tourism is an ongoing global development process. It is not reversible nor can it be stopped short. The problem for communities is to figure out how to create a unified or coherent vision of how they can take pro-active roles in the creation of services and products over which they can maintain control. Branding their destinations is crucial. As we know, all communities, regardless of culture or ethnicity tend toward political divisiveness. What we as outsiders can offer communities is a way to help them grasp the deep significance and long term value of collaboration despite histories of differences. As well, we also provide knowledge and understandings of contemporary technologies and provide training and basic workshops in the tools and methods by which they can assume greater ownership of their future. Neoliberalism and “caring capitalism” talk about helping communities and persons at risk. However, these humanitarian forms of tourism are actually in the business of perpetuating their own well-salaried jobs in global and international non-profit organizations. Helping communities with knowledge and expertise not the construction of a new bathroom or website is the only path to an ethical and sustainable tourism that truly benefits communities, not the global caring neoliberal non-profits.
Tourism to the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically the Riviera Maya, has exploded in the last two decades, and in some areas, the growth certainly appears to be unsustainable. Is there any area of Yucatan or Quintana Roo that you can point to and recognize for responsible growth?
Responsible growth and sustainable growth are two different things. As harsh as it may seem, tourism, to my mind, is a form of development that is infinitely sustainable even in its most horrifying forms – unfortunately! Thus, responsible tourism is quite a different thing. It is entirely based on creating local expertise and understandings of marketing, branding, new communicative technologies, social media and the like. These are forms of capitalism that are still free or accessible to the underprivileged and the marginalized. Thus the task for expats who come to the Yucatán and Quintana Roo this is what is required of them. To create real collaborations that are premised on mutuality, respect for others, and comprehension of cultural difference.