>> Monday, February 8, 2010
National Geographic Traveler rated 133 world destinations. The Riviera Maya landed in the next to last category: Places in Trouble.
This survey—our sixth "places rated" list—isn’t a popularity contest. It is an assessment of authenticity and stewardship, evaluating the qualities that make a destination unique and measuring its "integrity of place." Thus the remote islands of the Grenadines can rate notably higher than popular St. Maarten. . . .
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments [about the Riviera Maya] from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"Once a low-key, charming alternative to the generic mega-development in Cancún. Now all that has changed. From Cancún to Tulum the coast is just one gated resort after another. The two-lane coastal highway has been replaced with a 4-to-6-lane, billboard-lined expressway. Fast-food franchises have replaced the locally owned eateries. Playa del Carmen, once the charming heart of the region, is now filled with wet-T-shirt contests and bad Mexican food. The sea is still beautiful and the ruins, Tulum, and Coba are still worth a visit, but expect huge crowds."
"Major risks to environment, culture, landscape, and authenticity. Mexico has exceptional environmental regulations on the books; the problems are enforcement and corruption, which allow illegal or quasi-legal development. The area is fascinating and beautiful and could be saved, but depends largely on larger institutional cultural shifts (with regard to corruption) and enforcement of regulations and laws."