Grupo Xcaret leads Mexico’s sustainable tourism efforts

Simply paying lip service to sustainability is not enough. Instead, hospitality companies must ensure environmentally conscious processes are woven throughout every level of their organisation, as well as through the local community

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By hiring staff who have a genuine passion for showing visitors their homeland, and working with companies that celebrate the culture of Mexico, Grupo Xcaret has been able to thrive

Responsibility and sustainability have long been key considerations for tourists who want to explore the planet while ensuring historic landmarks and cultural relics remain intact for future generations. Over the past few years, brands in the travel industry have increasingly responded to these concerns, updating and reforming their business practices to cater to conscientious travellers. The recycling of plastics, in particular, has become a popular policy, with companies large and small launching campaigns to prevent plastic waste from ending up in our oceans and harming marine wildlife.

While focusing on these overarching global issues is certainly worthwhile, brands in the tourism industry should also look introspectively to ensure their policies are as sustainable as possible. Water usage is a key example: many luxury resorts tend to use strong chemicals to treat swimming pools and other water features, but this can cause serious damage to both individuals’ health and the environment.

At Grupo Xcaret, we treat our pools and water elements with salt alone, avoiding harmful chemical products altogether. This responsible practice helps to protect our guests and workers – not to mention the surrounding environment – and aligns with our corporate development model. For us, sustainability is not a choice – it is the only pathway to the future.

A pillar of the community
Our passion for sustainability extends beyond our own practices and into the surrounding community. As such, we are committed to promoting sustainable economic and sociocultural growth by operating a business model that not only protects the environment, but also empowers local businesses and families. This is in accordance with our three pillars: people, planet and prosperity.

Grupo Xcaret ensures that Mexican traditions are preserved and celebrated throughout its properties and parks

Throughout Hotel Xcaret Mexico, there are numerous manifestations of our partnerships with local artisans, whose crafts are rooted in ancient, indigenous traditions. Their works are woven throughout our property, serving as physical and spiritual symbols of a truly authentic Mexican experience. For example, detailed mosaic tiles greet visitors whenever they enter the hotel’s public areas or guest bathrooms. Handcrafted by Mosaicos La Peninsular, a local business that has been in operation for more than three decades, these tiles are decorated with traditional Mayan symbols and use pigments and materials sourced from the Yucatán Peninsula to serve as a reminder that Hotel Xcaret Mexico is at one with its surroundings.

Every piece of the company’s sustainability effort comes with its own story – one visitors can even take home with them. For example, we work with women of Mayan descent to weave Jipijapa and Palma hats inside the caves of the Campeche region. In order to keep the palm moist and flexible, this collective uses a special finishing process – known locally as el tul-chi – to round the hats. From the growing of the palm leaves to the plants used in the natural dyes, every part of the process is completed using sustainable methods. Not only does this keep these women and many others in their community working, it also helps to preserve ancient Mexican traditions.

Integrity is its own reward
At Grupo Xcaret, we believe that all hotels should introduce visitors to the local culture while respecting, maintaining and developing that culture to ensure it thrives in tandem with the organisation’s success. Striking this balance was a key consideration when we opened the Hotel Xcaret Mexico in 2017, the same year the UN outlined its principles for the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The 17 goals presented by the UN that year very much aligned with our own goals, which have been demonstrated through the 65 programmes Grupo Xcaret currently sponsors.

Hotel Xcaret Mexico is also the first hotel in the Americas to have been awarded the EarthCheck Certification in Planning and Design by the world’s leading scientific benchmarking certification and advisory group for travel and tourism. This is a label that goes far beyond the standard definition of ‘environmentally conscious’. The hotel’s locally sourced craft features are among the reasons for this honour, but the use of sustainable, environmentally conscious practices with regards to energy, water, transport, ecology, socioeconomic development and cultural wellbeing played an important role, too.

Grupo Xcaret treats all of its pools and water elements with salt alone, avoiding harmful chemical products altogether

Sustainable success
There are many other examples of the careful choices Grupo Xcaret has made to ensure that Mexican traditions – a fusion of Aztec, Mayan and other native cultures, as well as centuries-old Spanish influences – are preserved and celebrated throughout the property. We have woven these sustainable concerns through our All Fun Inclusive concept, which includes complimentary access to nine different nature parks and tours. We have also implemented a number of educational programmes for local prisoners, such as our lamp design training initiative, which aims to provide inmates with useful skills when they return to the community.

What’s more, we are engaged in a reforestation programme that encompasses all of our parks and hotels. Across the green areas of Destino Xcaret, we have nurtured precious tree seedlings with compost from our kitchens – further evidence of our commitment to integrating sustainability at every level of the organisation. As part of our focus on limiting the impact that tourism and gastronomy can have on our natural resources, we have also partnered with the state commission that promotes sustainable fishing and the responsible consumption of seafood.

Our focus on sustainability has proven to be beneficial for our business. In fact, the Grupo Xcaret family is constantly growing, and today we employ more than 10,000 people throughout all of our properties. By hiring staff who have a genuine passion for showing visitors their native homeland, and working with companies that celebrate the culture of Mexico, the hotel has been able to thrive. This year we are set to welcome our 50 millionth park guest, an important milestone that demonstrates how many people our work has touched over the decades.

We believe that these efforts – from recycling and composting, to creating a market for ancient traditions that allows them to survive and prosper – can serve as a model for other hotels. We have not simply paid lip service to ‘sustainability’ because it is a trendy buzzword; rather, we have built real relationships with the surrounding communities to make them partners in our success. This, to us, is what true sustainability looks like. We look forward to a sustainable future, as we know the best is yet to come.