San Cristobal de las Casas – Mexico will promote adventure tourism, not only to lure visitors but also "with deeper aims," including generating jobs for the country's poorest citizens, especially here in the mainly indigenous southeast.
President Felipe Calderon pointed to Mexico's "enormous potential" for adventure tourism and called on the 31 state governments to find sources of investment to capitalize on the opportunity.
Upon inaugurating the 18th Adventure Tourism Summit, which will run until Friday in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Calderon emphasized the role of indigenous communities in the development of this segment of the tourist industry.
"We need for our natural resources, our enormous cultural wealth, to be able to be preserved with dignity (with) the income that adventure tourism provides, (with) the income that the national or foreign tourist leaves, and which specifically allows these communities to be able to get ahead," he said.
Although he did not mention it by name, the president acknowledged that the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, which took up arms in 1994, was a reflection of how fed up the indigenous communities felt after years of marginalization and inequality.
He insisted that the adventure tourism industry is a viable option for correcting the "terrible" inequalities among the indigenous peoples or the country's poorest, at the same time that Mexico's natural resources are being protected with mechanisms of sustainability.
At a press conference after the inauguration of the conference, the president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Shannon Stowell, said that the main challenges for this sector are training to provide safety for the customers, improvement in the quality of services and in the area of sustainability.
He said many governments do not know the value of adventure tourism and do not consider it a priority.
Participating in the conference are about 650 delegates from 54 countries, including representatives of 20 of Mexico's indigenous peoples.