Sustainable waste management in the tourism sector of the Mexican Caribbean

Project description

Title: Sustainable waste management in the tourism sector of the Mexican Caribbean
Commissioning party: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Mexico
Partner: Quintana Roo Ministry for the Environment and Tourism
Overall term: 2008 to 2010


Tourism is booming in the Mexican Caribbean: more than seven million people visited Cancún, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya in 2007. The number of hotel rooms in the region stood at 73,000 in the same year, 35,000 of them in the Riviera Maya, an area experiencing especially strong growth in tourism.
The tourism sector in the Mexican Caribbean is responsible for about one third of all of the waste generated in the region, with 400 tonnes of waste per day. Waste is sometimes not managed properly, causing significant environmental damage. The special composition of the region's soil means that pollutants leach directly into the groundwater, jeopardising not only drinking water supply, but also the extremely vulnerable ecosystem of underground water courses and the nearby coral reef.


Hotels in the Mexican Caribbean manage waste sustainably, and tourists have been made aware of the waste problem.


In October 2008, GIZ, the Swiss travel agent Kuoni Travel Holding, the non-governmental organisation Amigos de Sian Ka’an (with financing from Travel Foundation Netherlands) and the state of Quintana Roo's ministries for the environment and tourism agreed on measures to promote integrated waste management in the region as part of a development partnership with the private sector.

GIZ in Mexico was involved in measures to raise awareness among hoteliers and advised them on formulating and implementing modern and sustainable waste management plans as part of this partnership. The project also raised awareness among tourists with a focus on calling attention to environmental issues on the ground and providing practical tips on preventing waste while on holiday. The project also supported development of mechanisms that should help waste to be collected and recycled at local level.

Specifically, the project partners made the following contributions:

  • GIZ: advisory services on formulating pilot plans for integrated waste management in hotels, project management, workshop moderation, appointing consultants to provide a market analysis of local waste collection and the recycling industry
  • Kuoni Travel Holding: financing workshops to raise awareness among the tourism industry
  • Amigos de Sian Ka’an (Travel Foundation Netherlands): financing and conducting campaigns to raise awareness among hoteliers and tourists, coordinating activities on the ground
  • Quintana Roo Ministry for the Environment and Quintana Roo Ministry for Tourism: creating the legislative and regulatory conditions to introduce waste management plans in the tourism sector, taking care of experts on the ground

Results achieved so far

On the one hand, the project created a legislative framework for standard waste management plans in hotels in the Mexican Caribbean, allowing the plans to be introduced across the board. On the other hand, it made tourists, hoteliers and their employees more aware of this issue. A market analysis was also conducted to identify recycling potential in the state of Quintana Roo. It provides strategies and recommendations for incentives that the state can provide to encourage the private sector to become more involved in this area. Management plans to improve waste management were drawn up and implemented in three hotels of varying sizes.

Additional information