Student Projects in Sustainable Community Tourism at Chichen Itza & Piste are conducted through the IU CLACS Service Service Learning Program in Yucatan. Indiana University Bloomington. Quetzil Castaneda, professor. CLACS directed by Anke Birkenmaier. IU Global and International Studies. SGIS / 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.

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IU Service Learning in YucatánCourse Design & Outcomes

              Community Tourism, Marketing & Development

6 week course Summer Session, 6 credits

LTAM L-426 / L-526, Offered Through IUB Office of Overseas Study,Indiana University Bloomington

Combined Undergraduate & Graduate course


This is a service learning and field study course in which students live and work among Indigenous Maya communities located near the UNESCO World Heritage site and 7 Wonder of the World, Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, México and hours from the Maya Riviera. Ideal for students in: International Studies, Environmental Studies, Heritage, Social Media Marketing, Anthropology, Public Policy, Non-Profit & Non-Governmental Organizations, Indigenous Rights, Tourism, Spanish, Latin American Studies, Sustainability, Design

Read about Project Concepts for 2016
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Service Learning Course Design and Projects

The course integrates service learning objectives and participatory action research within an applied anthropology framework. This approach teaches students how to value and prioritize community perspectives, cultural understandings, and local histories in creating successful economic development, tourism promotion, public policy and resource management.  Students learn how to create real collaborations with communities in the design and implementation of solutions to socioeconomic problems that communities face in contexts of globalization and neoliberalism. 

The goal of this course is to provide students with the tools and experience in community tourism development that allows students to design, develop, manage, and promote tourism in ways that have greater benefits for local communities. 

Specifically, the classroom component provides students with the academic foundations of
A) tourism studies and tourism development, including the roles of heritage, culture, community, and ecology in the development of mass and alternative tourisms,
B) the culture and history of Yucatán, with special focus on the history of regional tourism,
C) the politics and social contexts of NGO and communitarian organizations in México, and
D) the methods and goals of participatory and community action research, especially as these relate to service learning and to applied social science research.


Service Learning Outcomes

  1. Gain practical understanding, skills and experience in the design and implementation strategies of community-oriented tourism development
  2. Learn the basic methodologies of community and participatory action research, specifically:
    1. Gain practical understanding of the relationship and differences between types of applied, community, and participatory research
    2. Gain hands-on experience in the practice of community action/participatory research with
  3. Learn how to identify, understand and pragmatically analyze the interface between civil society (communities) and nongovernmental organizations in contexts of Mexican and Latin American politics and society by
    1. Gaining hands-on experience in collaboration with community organizations and different social sectors involved in tourism
    2. Gaining direct hands-on understanding of the sociopolitical structuring and formation of community within contexts of Mexican and Yucatec society
    3. Gaining experiential learning of how NGOs and civil associations work in the public (“third”) space of civil society between private and government spheres


Service Learning Projects

Students conduct participatory action research with community partners in the field of community tourism development.  Students are assigned to work with community partners according to identifiable student interests, backgrounds, educational motivations, and language skills. Students are grouped in teams of two or three based on complementary strengths in order to conduct their projects. 

Projects have a Five Step Process:
1. Knowledge Foundation.
2. Tourism Analysis and Destination Assessment
3. Project Design
4. Conduct Project
5. Project Report: Evaluation and Presentation

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Upcoming Projects and Project Ideas for 2016


Community Tourism Service Learning Projects are focused on the development of strategies and the implementation of branding, tourist-consumers, marketing and promotion through online web presence. Projects based in development of branding strategies can include assessment of tourism services and destinations in relation to tourism markets, types of tourist consumers, and sociopolitical contexts of development; implementation focuses on signage, representation, and the correlation of these to brand and types of tourist consumers that are attracted to the community partner destinations. Projects that focus on online web presence can include the development of websites but more importantly on providing training to community partners in the maintenance and further development of websites. Projects that focus on marketing and promotion create strategies for development of visual and video materials manifesting positive tourist experiences and reviews. Implementation includes strategic placement of materials on already existing websites that provide tourist information, services, travel agencies, travel reviews, such as Trip Advisor,,, Cancun Tips, Google Maps, Bing Maps, and related sites. Projects based in work with local government and private sector focus on urban planning of tourism development, creation of tourism business associations, strategic design of tourism events and activities, the development of marketing tools for community partners, and strategic or long term visions tourism development.



Yokdzonot Cenote Project

In 2016-2018, students will work on projects that continue to materialize and express the re-branding of Yokdzonot as an eco-chic tourism destination that was initiated in 2015. This includes working on ways to re-make and improve the signage and services at the destination itself, but also includes working ways to establish a coherent online media presence that reflects and attracts the eco-chic traveler. Concretely this means, creating video and images that express this tourist and then figuring out ways to have these marketing materials uploaded to the web at diverse tourism information websites ranging from TripAdvisor, Google and Bing Maps, to other regionally specific travel guide/agency websites for the Yucatan — such as,,, Mexican travel board, Cancun tips, Akumal, etc.

Pisté Loncheria Project

In 2016-2018, students will continue to design and create promotional and marketing materials for the Pisté Loncherias in the downtown Arcos building; a second project is based on Pisté Posadas and the initiation of similar work with these owners of tourism services. Projects include completion of the rebranding of menus and signage, as well as creating a marketing strategy based in visual images and short videos with tourists providing positive reviews and expressing positive tourist experience. As well, we need to continue to develop, correct and improve the online web presence of these loncherias on TripAdvisor, Google and Bing Maps, and related travel review sites — such as,,, Mexican travel board, Cancun tips.

Google Maps Pisté Project

Google Maps has re-opened map editing by users starting in the fall of 2015. This creates a welcome opportunity for project teams to create comprehensive strategies and plans to googlize the tourism services and attractions of Pisté and nearby communities of the Chichén Itzá micro-region (Yaxuna, Yokdzonot, Xcalacoop, Dzitas). Specific Community Tourism Projects to create prominent online web presence on Google and Bing maps can be designed around particular target goals such as surrounding communities, eco-adventure tourism attractions, tourism businesses and services.

Pisté Tourism Services and Business Association Project

Starting in the summer of 2016 IU Service Learning is going to be working directly with the city and county government to create an effective strategy and plan of implementation of sustainable community tourism. Priority projects are: assisting the community create to a) a business association of hotels, restaurants and other services that can take effective action as a positive force for sustainable development; b) a strategy of urban planning of tourism development and community growth and zoning; c) a strategy of tourism branding, including correlated activities and events, to foment tourism attractiveness as a destination for particular types tourist-consumers.

OperaMaya in Chichén Project

Starting in the summer of 2016, IU Service Learning In Yucatan will be directly collaborate with OperaMaya and the Tinum County to create an annual music and cultural festival in Chichén Itzá and Pisté. The OperaMaya team will work with the county and city officials as well as local businesses to conceptualize and conduct promotion and marketing for the OperaMaya concerts to be held in early July every year.

Heritage Project

Starting in the summer of 2016, IU Service Learning In Yucatan will collaborate with the Sindicato de Trabajadores del Sindicato del INAH. The Team Projects work with the INAH Custodios to create and implement cultural heritage awareness programs for Maya communities. These programs have the goal of increasing positive understanding and appreciation of archaeological heritage and contemporary Maya culture and language in communities that have suffered historical disenfranchisement for their racial, cultural and linguistic identities.

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Program Content Program Logistics

⇒ Service Learning Projects  

⇒ Program Cost  

⇒ Program Locations 

⇒ Eligibility & Requirements 

⇒ Program Lodging and Meals 

⇒ Application Process 

⇒ Field Trips and Tourism Attractions 

⇒ Student Travel Info 

⇒ Community Partners 

⇒ Program Calendar & Schedule 

⇒ Course Syllabus   

⇒ Teaching & Research Facility  

⇒ Program Director & Staff / Faculty  

⇒ Travel Safety & Security in Yucatán  


This Service Learning experience will make THE difference in your life

Visitors to Service Learning in Yucatan Program, starting November 2, 2014

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