Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sustainable Tourism - Xelha Park Riviera Maya Receives EarthCheck Gold Certification

"Sustainable tourism -Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities"  (via UNWTO)

Anyone who has visited Cancun or the Riviera Maya on more than one occasion has certainly noted the massive growth of the region and the rapid development of new hotels, condos, entertainment parks and housing. In my ten plus years of living here, I've witnessed huge changes in my little piece of paradise. Each time I see a new building going up, it makes me a little sad to wonder what effect it will have on the future of the Mexican Caribbean's environment and communities. Many companies like to throw around the terms "eco-friendly" or "sustainable" in their marketing, so it is always a pleasure to witness real dedication to these important matters and not just the use of the words for publicity.

Press conference Xelha Park

In my work in social media in Cancun, I have had the good fortune to collaborate frequently with Xperiencias Xcaret in all of their attractions (Xcaret Park, XelHa Park, Xplor, Xoximilco). Spending time at each of them and meeting their teams of environmentalists and community outreach specialists, I can say without hesitation that this is a company that is walking the walk of sustainability and responsible tourism. My opinion is one thing of course, but what sets the organization apart is the world-wide recognition it is receiving for its dedication to sustainability.

EarthCheck Gold Award

This past weekend, I was invited to XelHa on World Water Day to celebrate the park's latest award, the EarthCheck Gold certification. XelHa is the first theme park in the world to receive this distinction, a great honour and highly deserved. What is EarthCheck you say? 

From the Xelha blog

"For starters, EarthCheck is a international certification program for tourism businesses to promote best environmental and social practices that specifically evaluates ten lines of action: 

-greenhouse gas emissions 
-energy efficiency 
-drinking water 
-ecosystem conservation 
-social and cultural issues 
-administrative land use planning 
-protection of air quality and noise control 
-wastewater management 
-solid waste management 
-storage of substances harmful to the environment"

Xelha Park meets and exceeds the standards of EarthCheck in each of these categories, going above and beyond to ensure the future of the ecosystems and the community. For the "eco-conscious" traveler, this means you can rest assured that a visit to Xelha will not only provide you with a fabulous encounter in paradise, but that you are supporting an organization that truly cares about being responsible to the planet. Muchas felicidades, big congratulations to the team at Xelha!

Please take a moment for a virtual trip to paradise by watching this video, it's magnificent! For more photos of my day at Xelha (of course I enjoyed the park after the press conference!), please see the Xelha Flickr set.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Riviera Maya Film Festival 2014

"El Cine Nos Une"..."Film Unites Us", the theme of the 2014 edition of the Riviera Maya Film Festival is all about bringing people together to share in the art of cinema. For years people have complained about a lack of culture in Cancun, but that is rapidly changing as projects like the RMFF continue to grow and experience success. This is the third year for the festival and it just keeps getting better and better, providing a world-class cinematic experience for the residents and visitors of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

The 2014 festival kicks off on March 9 and runs until March 15 in Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The films will be screened on the beach, in public parks, in cinemas and at their own drive-in. What? That's right, dig your toes in the sand while you enjoy the Latin American premiere of Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac", the long-awaited film "Hard to be a God" from the late Russian director Aleksei German, "Why Don't You Play in Hell?" from Japanese director Sion Sono or "Oldboy" the Spike Lee remake of a South Korean cult film. 

The Riviera Maya Film Festival is not only bringing international films to the region, but is celebrating Mexican film makers and new artists. They support new talent in the "RivieraLab" program, showcasing up and comers and assisting them in getting their projects made and seen. Past participants of the program have gone on to find success in other arenas and it is a real pleasure to see a local festival encouraging and assisting new talent.

I am eager to get out and enjoy a cinematic experience, I invite all local residents and people visiting during this time to come out and do the same. The events are FREE (yes, free!), please check out the RMFF 2014 Facebook page or website for details of screening times and locations. See you at the movies (I'll bring popcorn).

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Rio Secreto Experience in the Riviera Maya

Max guiding the guide 

Been there, done that (but hey, I didn't get a t-shirt!) Having lived in Cancun for more than ten years, I have had the pleasure of experiencing most of the natural attractions in the region, including Rio Secreto. But that was years ago, my last visit was back in '09 when Max was but a wee thing. When I received the invitation to explore Rio Secreto again, I was more than happy to don my adventure shoes and hit the caves.

Stunning stalactites and stalagmites

This was a "work" visit, a "fam trip" as they say and it was with my banda of social media buddies and Max the Explorer that we headed south to Playa del Carmen. Max kept the bus entertained with his (senseless) jokes and we arrived in great spirits and ready for adventure.

Peace my brothers and sisters

As you may or may not know, the Yucatan Peninsula is set on a limestone foundation and there are thousands of cenotes and caves throughout the region. Rio Secreto is an opportunity to explore the underground beauty of the caverns, it is truly a spectacle of nature. Guests are provided wet suits, water shoes and helmets with lanterns, all the equipment you'll need to be a real "spelunker" for a couple of hours. (On our last visit Max was thoroughly disappointed that they did not have a helmet small enough for him that had a lantern, he was thrilled to be a "big boy" this time).

Total Zen Moment

Before entering the cave system, we were joined by a Maya shaman to ask for permission from the gods, this is sacred ground and one does not mess around. We entered the caverns with great respect and were soon in another world. Max the independent spirit abandoned me immediately and anointed himself leader of the pack, sticking by the guide, asking questions and sharing his observations. We learned all about the stalactite and stalagmite formations that take thousands of years to grow, though so delicate that with a touch they can be destroyed (pleeeease don't touch!). Our guide Hector was full of knowledge and interesting facts (and was incredibly kind and patient with my Maxito). We explored these incredible formations, sometimes walking over dry rock and sometimes swimming through crystal clear, cool waters. The highlight for our little group was the "Star Wars" effect (I'm going to keep it a secret, you'll have to live it for yourself!)

The most awesome banda of social media experts (and Max)

This is a unique and beautiful experience, in touch with nature, history, the underworld and sharing time with good friends and family. The Rio Secreto team is personable and professional, with a passion for what they do and for the preservation and conservation of these natural wonders. They continue to explore and discover new paths in the cave system, it has expanded greatly since my last visit and I can't wait to go again to see what else is new (or very, very old in this case).

For more photos, please see my Rio Secreto Flickr set.