Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative

The tropical climate and white sand beaches along the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula have given rise to a tourism industry that draws millions of visitors each year. In the past five years alone, the number of hotel rooms in the area has increased by 40 percent. Along with the influx of tourists, the steady migration of workers seeking employment in hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions have placed enormous pressure on the Mesoamerican Reef — the longest reef in the Western Hemisphere — as contaminants from hotels and boats destroy the coral and threaten marine life in the sea and mangrove forests.

In response to concerns that poorly managed development was not only threatening the reef but the two million people in Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala who rely on the reef for their income, cultural identity and livelihoods, MARTI was established in 2006 as a joint initiative of NGOs, the tourism industry and the state government of Quintana Roo.

Since its founding, MARTI has engaged hotels, cruise ships and marine recreation providers in the adoption of responsible practices that slow reef decline. And today, it is one of the largest initiatives in the region working to reverse the negative impacts of tourism. More than 130 hotels and 80 marine tourism companies have joined the initiative in the past five years, all taking concrete steps to become more environmentally and socially responsible.In addition to Sustainable Travel International, which serves as secretariat for MARTI, members include Amigos de Sian Ka’an, Riviera Maya Hotel Association, Coral Reef Alliance, Rainforest Alliance, Grupo Intersectorial de Cozumel, the Quintana Roo State Tourism Ministry and The Travel Foundation. MARTI also works closely with Mexico’s premier environmental law group, the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, and other local NGOs and government agencies in Mexico and nearby countries.

For more information on MARTI, please contact Paloma Zapata.