In this interview, Sustainable Riviera Maya founder Beatriz Barreal tells us how she went from communications and marketing guru to Mexico’s sustainable tourism development champion. We learn what lead to the founding of the successful NGO and what challenges Sustainable Riviera Maya has faced and still struggles with today. She also explains to us the importance of cooperation among stakeholders in order to achieve sustainability at a destination level.
- Where an when Beatriz discovered her passion for sustainability;
- The goal of Sustainable Riviera Maya;
- The main challenges in developing sustainable tourism practices;
- What characterizes a sustainability leader;
- Three books every aspiring sustainable tourism leader should read;
- What she would do differently if she could start over again.
Beatriz, when and where did your sustainable tourism journey begin – when did you discover your passion for sustainability?
Being an entrepreneur in marketing and graphic communication, with a bachelor degree in graphic design and communication, with post-graduate diplomas in marketing, corporate communication and strategic communication, for more than 12 years, something inside of my heart started asking for something more to be achieved with my daily job.
In 1999, I became a board member for Amigos de Sian Ka’an, NGO. From there, I started my immersion in the topic of conservation and the awareness of the needs in the surrounding communities and the urban population within the destination. I continued as board member for almost 11 years, following the desire of my heart to do something along the lines of the three pillars of sustainability.
In 2001, I set out with a friend to start an NGO, “Toma el control” (take control), for teenagers in high-risk situations. In 2009 I left the Amigos de Sian Ka’an board to start Sustainable Riviera Maya.
I was visualizing an NGO that would be able to join all the efforts in sustainability, in order to give full potential to their strengths and create the needed awareness. When we can see all the efforts together, sustainable tourism becomes an engine for development.
My abilities in communications, and good relationship with the entrepreneurs and authorities in the region, allowed me to be the creator of the first Sustainable Realty Investment Forum in 2011. For the very first time in the Riviera Maya, this forum brought together realtors, developers, United Nations agencies, investors, federal authorities from tourism, energy, environment, education, NGO’s, academics and civil society. Over 3 days we shared ideas and worked towards a Sustainable Riviera Maya.