Quality of life for Mayan locals, Quality of geo-tourism experience

Quality of life for Mayan locals, Quality of geo-tourism experience

Chichen Itza, Mexico
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Hacienda Chichen has provided the basis for the Maya Foundation in Laakeech serving not only as a tourism business but as an educational institute for the Mayan people from local communities.
The Hacienda in conjunction with the Maya Foundation provides numerous opportunities to improve the skills and knowledge of these people with an emphasis on teaching not only work skills in areas of basic employment, but life skills to the family as a whole. This allows the children of upcoming generations to start in the right direction regarding health, education and environmental issues that affect them and their communities directly.
We teach the importance of environmental protection and ...

About You
Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

Chichen Itza Archaeological Zone

City

Chichen Itza

State/Province

Yucatan

Postal/Zip Code

97752

Country
Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of tourist experience and educational benefit to tourists , Quality of benefit to residents for the destination , Quality of tourism management by destination leadership , Quality of stewardship of the destination.

Organization size

Small (1 to 100 employees)

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Year innovation began

2004

Place your video embed code here from YouTube, Google Video and other video sharing websites. How to embed a video from YouTube.

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/5dneaupl8fI&hl=es&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/5dneaupl8fI&hl=es&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Living culture.

IDB/Fomin
Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Deseo postularme.

Si perteneces a un pais de Latinoamerica y el Caribe tienes la oportunidad de presentar tu iniciativa para acceder a fondos para innovaciones en turismo sostenible del BID/FOMIN (para mayor informacion leer la seccion sobre la oportunidad BID/FOMIN en la pagina principal del Desafio).

Consumidores (viajeros), Prestatarios de servicios turísticos, Prestatarios de servicios no turísticos (proveedores), Grupos comunitarios autóctonos, Atractivos naturales y culturales.

Indica cuales de estas tematicas cubre tu innovacion (elige todas aquellas opciones que apliquen)

Planificación y Gestión de destinos, Innovación y diversificación en el desarrollo de productos turísticos, Profesionalización, buenas prácticas y certificación de servicios turísticos sostenibles, Estrategias y herramientas innovadoras para la promoción y puesta en mercado de destinos y productos en turismo sostenible y geoturismo..

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation? Please describe in one sentence the kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

To empower the local Mayan communities to become self reliant by assisting with social, health and educational needs as well as encouraging sound ecological practices amongst them.

Please write an overview of your project. Include how your approach supports or embodies geotourism or destination stewardship. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the map located on the competition homepage.

The Hacienda Chichen has provided the basis for the Maya Foundation in Laakeech serving not only as a tourism business but as an educational institute for the Mayan people from local communities.
The Hacienda in conjunction with the Maya Foundation provides numerous opportunities to improve the skills and knowledge of these people with an emphasis on teaching not only work skills in areas of basic employment, but life skills to the family as a whole. This allows the children of upcoming generations to start in the right direction regarding health, education and environmental issues that affect them and their communities directly.
We teach the importance of environmental protection and nature conservation by actively encouraging locals to be involved in regular clean-ups and reforestation activities.
We promote pride in the Mayan culture and showcase its importance to guests so the local people learn a sense of pride in their heritage and continue to actively practice their traditions.
The Hacienda Chichen therefore provides as a model for rural tourism business in Mexico.

Explain in detail why your approach is innovative

At the Hacienda Chichen we take the utmost care to preserve the hacienda's natural environment, its historical legacy and cultural value. We are committed to an eco-vision and follow a program of sustainable tourism by encouraging sound ecological practices. We also provide for the nearby Mayan communities social, health, and education needs.
We are unique destination; a Mayan Holistic Spa Resort that is committed to active green awareness.
We have implemented a waste management program, using a state-of-the-art eco-friendly septic system. This system purifies and recycles used water with the help of bio-digestible tanks and man-made wetlands. For that reason the hotel uses biodegradable amenities, cleaning and laundry products.
We have also installed power-saving light fixtures, individual air-conditioning units and ceiling fans in each room in an effort to conserve electricity.
Aside from environmental practices we are also the first group in this part of Mexico with a different approach in the sense of enriching our staff and teaching them to put human values before financial gain.
In saying this workers are however encouraged to create themselves a second income by offering different activities to enrich the tourists’ cultural experience and awareness. This includes but is not limited to sacred ceremonies, bird watching tours, cultural nature walks and Mayan cooking classes. Tourists are always encouraged to participate in the Maya traditions and ceremonies when they stay with us.

Impact
Describe the degree of success you have had to date. How do you measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the impact on sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How has it transformed or contributed to the power of place or demonstrated the sustainability of tourism? How does your approach minimize negative impacts?

Our success is measured by the amount of local people we see showing initiative in the areas of personal growth and awareness.
To date we have experienced a positive impact socially, educationally and in aspects of health and environmental sustainability and conservation.
We are seeing the dramatic changes in the communities’ cultural pride and restored importance of heritage. The killing of animals and cutting of trees has decreased immensely in the area and a new enthusiastic approach to conserving these things has taken hold.
We have been successful in teaching the community the importance of giving and have created volunteer programs within the community as well as externally, implementing teaching programs in English and work skills.
In 2007 we built a health and nutrition centre in the neighboring community of Xcalacoop and began a nutrition program to help the hundreds of sick and mal-nutritioned children. To date we have returned over 120 children to health and have continued the daily meals to teach the parents the importance of good nutrition. We have also donated new bathrooms to the primary school in Xcalacoop to execute the importance of good hygiene.
Our program is growing and through our work we sparked the interest of a hospitality school, Getaway, in Europe who has now incorporated the Hacienda into their College curriculum, bringing groups of students to the Hacienda for three day field trips to illustrate a different approach in hotel management and geo-tourism.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your work, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Our workers are 100% Mayan locals and we support them to form secondary businesses within the Foundation to enhance the geo-tourism idea.
We work together with the surrounding communities to improve the quality of life, offering aid and education in schools, health centers, businesses and within cultural aspects. The locals are now actively involved with these programs to continue their success.
When purchasing produce for the Haciendas’ restaurant we buy various foods and some non perishables from small local businesses to promote economic growth within their community.
We also have an onsite organic garden cared for by a retired Mayan employee who grows fresh organic fruits and vegetables to be used in the Kitchen.
Our Toh Boutique gift shop sells a range of artwork, jewelry and ceramics made by local Mayan people to support their work and economic stability.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

All of the activities offered at the Hacienda endorse cultural awareness and offer guests the opportunity to experience local customs.
The activities offered are angled towards various natures so there is a wide range of choice for tourists yet each choice still represents the importance of Mayan life and heritage as well as protection and love for Mother Nature.
Animal lovers have an opportunity to experience bird watching with a Mayan guide in a jungle sanctuary. People wanting to relax can partake in a Mayan spa ritual and treatment in the spa. Adventurous souls can explore Chichen Itza with a local guide, so all types of tourists are catered for.

Describe how your work helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area's cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues.

Prior to booking at the Hacienda, guests are made aware of our work and are encouraged to help in some way during their stay. We advertise the importance of geo tourism and how our hotel practices the idea. Through participating in our activities and programs at the Hacienda, guests receive an in depth look into the Mayan culture and a chance to appreciate it first hand with our staff. We set an example with environmental practices and it is strikingly obvious upon arrival to guests and volunteers alike.

Sustainability
How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

Our annual budget is $100,000 and this money goes directly into the community by means of construction, health support, family support, education, donation of equipment to the schools and homes and to staff or community members that show a great willingness to learn and succeed.
We have no permanent staff at the Foundation and rely solely on volunteers and the sponsorship of the Hacienda Chichen, Yaxkin Spa and money raised by the Toh Boutique as well as donations received from guests and supporters. We accept mainly goods and skills as donations.

Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? Is there a potential demand for your innovation?

Yes, we have so far been in operation and successful with our mission for six years on a small scale, however increased financial support is necessary to expand our operation and implement our visions for the future.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

We are a small operation so financial barriers are always present when it comes to moving forward with our ideas and visions for the future. We can’t extend our operation without increased financial aid and we do not beg for help as it would be hypocritical to what we teach the communities.
There is also a large amount of bureaucratic paperwork and legal barriers to overcome as well as a lack of faith in the establishment that holds us back from our full potential.

What is your plan to expand or further develop your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

We hope that other establishments will be inspired by our innovative approach and will follow our example and begin their own geo-tourism practices.
A few potential ventures we wish to implement;
* Agricultural crops to promote self sufficiency
* Treatment of water facilities to improve water quality
*Construct an educational institute teaching work skills to underprivileged Mayan locals with a certification system.
* Train more Mayan females from the communities the arts of the Mayan spa to give them an opportunity to progress and provide for their children.
*At present we are constructing a cultural centre in Merida and a new health centre in Xcop-te-il.

The Story
Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Belisa Barbachano was born in Merida, Mexico and raised abroad. She studied fine arts and sociology in Miami where she met her Husband Bruce Gordon in 1986. Together they formed a family and later returned to Merida after Belisa inherited the Hacienda Chichen from her grandmother in 1993.
This unattractive establishment gave the couple the opportunity of their lives, to combine their passions with their skills and transform the historical landmark into a place a rich beauty and cultural importance.
In 2004, with the assistance of their son Ruben, they formed the Maya Foundation in Laakeech and began their journey to change the lives of the local Mayan communities and reforest the once lush jungle lands around them.

What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.

In 1993 Belisa Barbachano became the next generation to inherit the Hacieda Chichen when her grandmother passed and from that moment, Belisa fell in love with the idea of blending her personal interests to create a beautiful place whilst using that place as a means to helping others.
With the assistance of her husband Bruce Gordon whose mission in life is to protect and conserve the environment, her son Ruben Gutierrez who is the creator of potential ventures and the legal dealings, Beatriz Correa with a desire to help enrich the Mayan elders and females of the local communities and finally Jose Tamay who is the direct link to the Maya communities; the dream that was the Maya Foundation came to life in 2004.
The Maya Foundation provides an opportunity for people to work together to meet challenges and tap into the communities resources to create a people that is empowered and eventually self reliant. The aim became the empowerment of the local Mayan people with the plan to support their rich cultural heritage, their sustainability and the sustainability and protection of the natural environment around them.

Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.

The activities we offer all incorporate the importance of cultural and environmental awareness. At the Yaxkin spa, a Mayan Holistic Eco-Spa and one of our main ventures, we are committed to restoring the ancient Mayan traditions in today’s Maya rural society and with all our guests who experience the beauty of a holistic Mayan spa ritual or sacred ceremony.
As part of our environmental protection and animal welfare program we offer guided nature walks with Mayan locals who share the legends of their people and the secrets of their medicines which are still actively used today.
The bird watching tours allow guests to walk through our private Bird Refuge and Maya Jungle Conservation Reserve, home to over 150 known species of birds, with a knowledgeable Mayan guide.
The Hacienda offers tourists a number of Mayan workshops including traditional Mayan cooking classes with the Haciendas Head chef, Jose Cime who will show you the essence of his world through gourmet cuisine.
In the spa, aromatherapy and soap making workshops are run to teach guests how to make their own environmentally friendly soaps which we then use in the Hacienda.
Guests are also encouraged to extend their stay and participate in our volunteer programs teaching English to the local Mayan community of Xcalacoop and to the always learning Hacienda staff.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

We would benefit from a direct partnership with the countries universities so we could fully benefit from the students who are sent to complete their social work in rural communities. This would allow us access to doctors, teachers and skilled individuals who could offer much needed assistance. We would also benefit greatly from more volunteers and by being linked to an organization that seeks out skilled and dedicated volunteers for our program.