If you follow this blog frequently you might know that from time to time we publish final master thesis from the students that graduated from the NHTV Master of Arts Tourism Destination Management.

This example is produced by Suzanne Wegelin and deals with the topic of ‘Take only pictures, leave only bubbles: A case study of the impact of Marine Based Tourism on the reef ecosystems of Playa del Carmen, Mexico’. Below you can find the executive summary of the paper as well as the whole thesis. Enjoy the read!

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo in Mexico has rapidly grown from a small fishermen’s settlement to a thriving beach holiday destination for North Americans and Europeans alike. The increase in coastal tourism in this area has brought many investors, who see the economic benefits of developing real estate and tourism infrastructure. However, the economic profit of developing this area takes precedence over the environmental ramifications. With the main attractions of this destination being the beaches, the sea and the aquatic wildlife, adequately dealing with environmental issues and developing the destination in a sustainable way seem to be difficult.

The objective of this research is to analyse the impact of Marine Based Tourism (MBT) on the reef ecosystem of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef in front of Playa del Carmen to advise and give recommendations to policy makers, tourism planners and tourism operators, in order to mitigate the anthropogenic impact of MBT and create a more environmental sustainable destination.

The findings from this study show that Marine Based Tourism has an impact on the reef ecosystems and on aquatic life. There is awareness of the environmental issues that have arisen due to the rapid development and the increase of the number of tourists visiting Playa del Carmen. It seems that everyone involved wants the power but no one is willing to take the responsibility and the action that comes along with it. Governance of the destination area seems difficult due to the three different layers of government. Additionally, this research indicates that policies and regulations are not being adhered to and that there is no regulatory body that oversees this. The overall conclusion for this study is that Playa del Carmen is growing at a very rapid pace and that it is developing in an unsustainable manner. Recommendations have been made at a national level to use the Green Economy approach, at a state level to look into Ecosystem Based Marine Spatial Management. And last but not least, at destination level to establish either a regional Destination Management Organisation (DMO) for the whole of the Riviera Maya or a local DMO for Playa del Carmen. The DMO would be responsible for tourism management and governance and could ultimately be a strategic leader in developing the destination in a sustainable way.

Show the thesis paper

As mentioned before this master thesis was written by Suzanne Wegelin.