How can you support the local economy?
Are you asking yourself how you can support the local economy while in the Riviera Maya? Well, there are always ways in which you may help locally-owned businesses. That way, you will encourage economic growth in the places you visit. So find here a few tips you can practice on your next vacation, journey, or even at home.
Respect the people
Some people seem to think that the Maya were a civilization that somehow died out when the Spanish arrived. They didn’t. They are alive and (fairly) well, and you will hear their soft language among the forests and even in the cities. But they are threatened by change, just as the reef is. They see their jungle communities change, as their children are sucked into the profitable commerce of the resorts. What can we do to help?
First, recognize that they are here and they have been here longer than anyone else. Second, contribute to the charities that aim to make their life easier. In some cases, these communities have combined the stewardship of their native jungle with invitations to tourists to explore their territory. Welcome these invitations, and understand that you are paying to sustain them.
When you buy something, find out who made it. It is not difficult, and the communities you visit will more than appreciate it. Look for the people that make what you like and buy from them: the artist, the craftsmen, and women, the families. If you are a real traveler, you will want to know and talk to the locals. They will be more than glad to tell you about their work, what it means to them and that way when you give away the souvenir it will be more thoughtful and the person that receives it will have not only the present but the story behind it.
Bargain if you want but keep in mind what the making of the product envolves. I know you are trying to avoid getting ripped off but try to think what can those couple of bucks do for the family of that local vendor. Just try to see when the bargain will be disrespectful of their work and stop before.
There will be beggars, and it’s worse, lots of them are children. This is a difficult one because your first reaction will be to try to help them by giving them money at that moment. But most of the time, these children have adults behind that will keep the money, and children will be used only to draw your attention. There should be a lot of reputable organizations that can take care of giving to the right people and trying to take those children out of the streets. There are plenty of ways to provide them with something without perpetuating this exploitation. Even a popsicle will do.
Give your time to non-profit organizations. Expat communities run some. For example, Seaside Rotary Club Playa del Carmen equips hospitals with much-needed medication, schools with water management systems and jungle villages with safe cooking stoves. KKIS (Keep Kids in School) provides children from low-income families with school supplies, travel and study grants, and English classes. Leyendo builds libraries in public schools while Tulum Limpio (Clean Tulum) focuses on the environmental impacts on the local economy.
Look for tour agencies that are community-based and local guides. You will have more authentic experiences for sure, and that gives to the place more than agencies that typically have foreign owners and where the money doesn’t stay in the area you visit.
Sounds easy, but the collision between a fragile natural system and a tourist invasion needs thought and care. The reef is suffering. We all want it to survive. One of the most severe issues is sunscreen. We all need to protect ourselves from the tropical sunshine, but not at the expense of the creatures that give coral its magical colors. Some sunscreens advertise themselves as not harmful, but you need to be sure that every single ingredient meets that standard.
Riviera Maya offers an extraordinary range of face-to-face experiences with whale sharks – the largest mammals on the planet – turtles, dolphins, the charming manatees. But at what cost? What are we doing to these creatures of the wild by crowding them, unknowingly smearing our protective chemicals onto them, imprisoning them for our brief satisfaction?
Also, remember that the ecological impact on the place also impacts the local economy.
It’s easy to fly in, enjoy the sunshine, invest in a condo, and enjoy a lifestyle that has no apparent relationship to the local economy. But think. What brought you here? What needs sustaining to make that attraction permanent? How can you help to restore Riviera Maya to the paradise that it was? And we hope it will continue to be.
Remember, at Top Mexico Real Estate … we make it happen!