What Happened to Community-Based Tourism during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic came as a big bucket of cold water for everyone.

After an intense planning process, at the beginning of the year we held a couple of meetings with the operative team and partners in the community of San Agustín, with the objective of establishing new goals and strategies for 2020. With the Tianguis Turístico in Mérida and the creation of new alliances at the peninsula level, everything pointed to the fact that this would be one of the best years for Co’ox Mayab, both in terms of promoting community-based tourism and in terms of the number of visitors that the cooperatives would receive.

The weeks passed in the blink of an eye, when suddenly we were struck by the reality before us: a pandemic was declared and with it came massive infections, flight cancellations, closures, and of course, many cancelled trips for the communities. Although at first it was difficult to digest the situation, we soon understood that everything was going to change, and we could not be the exception.

It is important to emphasize that community-based tourism represents a complementary income for most of the cooperatives, that is, in addition to tourism, the members develop other productive activities typical of their rural environments; however, the sudden loss of visitors strongly affected their household income.

In this complex scenario, communities have reacted in different ways, investing their time in activities such as the milpa, beekeeping and local commerce, among others. Some were forced to take a “break” which, although involuntary, was something they hadn’t done for a long time. However, they soon realized that, despite the adversity, this was an opportunity for the strengthening of their tourism organizations.

Below, we share with you some of the conservation, maintenance and training activities they have carried out in their cooperatives:

Zaaz Koolen Haá coordinates health awareness talks and maintenance work at the Yokdzonot cenote

The Zaaz Koolen Haá cooperative of the Yokdzonot community, which operates a large and beautiful cenote, coordinated a discussion on health measures in collaboration with the village’s health centre. This talk was held in their facilities at the beginning of the contingency, in order to make their members aware of the situation and to know some of the necessary hygiene measures to avoid the spread of the virus.

In addition, the cooperative, which is mostly made up of women, carried out maintenance work on the gardens inside its facilities, as well as on the recently built wetland for wastewater management.

Ya’ax Tekit delivers bird drinkers

The Ya’ax Tekit cooperative gave 10 bird drinkers to different families in the village, including the team that collaborates in monitoring birds and filling jaltunes (rock formations used to store water) in the community of Tekit, Yucatan.

This was carried out within the scope of a project granted to the cooperative by the Yucatan Peninsula Climate Fund (FCPY), with which they have adapted a trail to carry out monitoring and bird watching activities, as well as for the conservation of local fauna.

River Flamenco Tours gives maintenance to its boats

The cooperative River Flamenco Tours, which operates within the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, took advantage of the lack of visitors to give maintenance and new paint to its boats and equipment. Thus, the cooperative is preparing to be able to receive visitors again and offer them a better service.

Sewing workshop of the Turismo Indígena San Agustín cooperative starts making facemasks

The Lool Beek sewing workshop, made up of women from the community of San Agustín, in the south of Yucatán, organized to produce facemasks with designs related to the Mayab, thus generating income for the families of this community. This is done through a project they manage with the Small Grants Program (SGP).

Alianza Ambiental Ts’ono’ot Kaaj cleans the Xooch Cenote

The cooperative Alianza Ambiental Ts’ono’ot Kaaj of Cenotillo also organized to carry out cleaning and maintenance tasks to the facilities of the Xooch cenote. In this way, the cooperative is preparing to welcome back the visitors who dare to go on the adventure tours by bike to get to admire the scenic beauty of this beautiful cenote and to refresh themselves in its crystal-clear waters.

Although these are difficult times, we believe that opportunities are born out of crises. Opportunities to reflect, plan, expand our capabilities and improve our environment. Currently, in collaboration with the Peninsular Alliance for Community-Based Tourism, we are preparing a recovery plan that will contribute to the implementation of health and safety measures that will protect you and our partners on your next trip, and allow us to discover new ways to interact and share our natural and cultural wealth.

We invite you to reflect on this new normality, where connecting with nature and looking for supportive and conscious spaces close to home can generate a positive impact, not only in economic terms, but of a collective welfare.

 Be sure we’ll work for it, we’ll be expecting you soon. #TravelTomorrow #ViajaTurismoComunitario

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