Cozumel's tourism cycle of growth

Material Information

Cozumel's tourism cycle of growth a helpful model in sustainable development of resources?
Sorensen, Helle
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
95 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of Arts)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Department of Anthropology, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Committee Chair:
Janes, Craig
Committee Co-Chair:
Corbett, Kitty
Committee Members:
Koester, Steve
Muller, Brian


Subjects / Keywords:
Tourism -- Mexico -- Cozumel ( lcsh )
Sustainable development -- Mexico -- Cozumel ( lcsh )
Sustainable development ( fast )
Tourism ( fast )
Mexico -- Cozumel ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 84-95).
General Note:
Department of Anthropology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Helle Sorensen.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
47806952 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L43 2001m .S67 ( lcc )

Full Text
Helle Sorensen
B.A. Metropolitan State College, 1998
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts

2001 by Helle Sorensen
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Helle Sorensen
has been approved

Sorensen, Helle (M.A., Anthropology)
Cozumels Tourism Cycle of Growth: A Helpful Model in Sustainable Development
of Resources?
Thesis directed by Professor Craig Janes
Cozumel, off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, is one of the most heavily visited dive
sites in the world. However, the resort island is threatened by expanding tourism
developments and increased number of visitors that encroach on its delicate reef
ecosystem. Butlers product life cycle (PLC) model, with six distinct growth stages, is
applied to Cozumel in order to identify the impacts from the tourism industry. The
model is useful in evaluating environmental, socio-cultural, and economic effects of
increased tourism in Cozumel. Even though impact assessment presents great
challenges, it is important to place Cozumel in the PLC, because this knowledge can
be used to effectively develop and efficiently implement tourism planning strategies
towards an appropriate level of development. This paper uses Paradise Reef as a case
study and as the method for applying the product cycle model to the analysis of
Cozumel. The paper demonstrates that the main issue is that the reef is potentially
threatened by the newly constructed piers that allow cruise ships to dock on top of
its delicate ecosystem.
This abstract accurately represents the content I recommend
its publication.

I dedicate this thesis to my parents, Inge and Helge Sorensen. Throughout childhood, on
our many excursions, they taught me the wonder of new places and the fascination of
different cultures.

My deepest thanks go to John Shumate, who eagerly made me aware of the Paradise
Reef issue in 1997. As the issue unfolded, he kept faxing me interesting materials. It has
been a great pleasure to unexpectedly turn his original information into a thesis.
Great thanks are extended to Michael McGuire, Brooxie Shumate, and Eileen Geller,
who helped me with research in Cozumel. Michael McGuire collected excellent
information while diving Paradise Reef. Brooxie Shumate introduced me to a few
Cozumel natives. As a cruise traveling companion, Eileen Geller was endlessly patient
as I conducted research.
Many apologies go to my friends from the Colorado Rocky Mountain region, my friends
from afar, as well as my family in Denmark. I owe them all for their patience and
understanding in being unable to join lunches, write letters, and to otherwise stay in

Figures.................................................... ix
Tables..................................................... x
1. INTRODUCTION............................................. I
Methodology........................................... 7
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE................................ 11
3. DEVELOPMENT OF COASTAL ZONE............................. 22
Exploration Stage: 1961-1975......................... 22
Involvement Stage: 1976-1979......................... 26
Bottom-Up Development Approach..................26
Public Investment.............................. 27
Development Stage: 1980-1988......................... 29
Economic Aspirations of Cruise Business........ 29
Top-Down Development Approach.................. 33
Consolidation Stage: 1989-1998....................... 35
Environmental Paradox of Coral Destruction..... 37

4. SATURATION BY COASTAL TOURISTS........................... 43
Stagnation Stage: 1999-present........................ 43
Physical Threshold.............................. 43
Social Threshold................................ 46
Economic Threshold.............................. 51
Psychological Threshold......................... 56
Post-Stagnation Stage................................. 61
Decline......................................... 61
Rejuvenation.................................... 64
5. DISCUSSION OF STUDY..................................... 65
Sustainability through Education............... 67
Sustainable Tourism Model............................. 72
A. SURVEY.................................................. 75
B. INTERVIEW GUIDE......................................... 82
C. INTERVIEWEE CODING SYSTEM.............................. 83
BIBLIOGRAPHY...................................................... 84

1.1 Cozumel Island...................................................... 2
1.2 Tourism Product Cycle of Growth...................................... 4
1.3 Psychographic Positions of Destinations, 1991....................... 5
3.. 1 Total Visitors to Cozumel....................................... 23
3.2 Tourist Visitors by Mode of Transportation...........................28
3.3 Population Increase............................................. 31
4.1 Cruise Shopping Promotional Sign........... ...................... 53
4.2 Number of Cruise Ships..................................... 57
4.3 Number of Cruise Passengers....................................... 59
4.4 Cruise Ship Piers.................................................. 63
5.1 Psychographic Positions of Destinations, 1972....................... 69

2.1 Product Life Cycle Stages and Indicators...................................... 17
3.1 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1975...................................... 25
3.2 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1979...................................... 29
3.3 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1988...................................... 35
3.4 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1998....................................... 36
4.1 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-present..................................... 44
4.2 Cruise Passenger Interest...................................................... 49
4.3 Cruise Passenger Motivations................................................... 50
4.4 Leakage Effects by Cruise Visitors.............. .............................. 55

The picture of Cozumel, Mexicos largest island resort, is one of laid-back relaxation.
Cozumel is especially popular within the scuba diving community. An enormous
wealth of sea life inhabiting Cozumel's 20 coral reefs inspired Jacques Cousteau to
name this 30-mile-long island one of the top diving spots in the world. Cozumel is
home to the second largest coral reef in the world, swarming with Black-spotted
Moray Eels and rare Splendid Toadfish (Nusser 1997). Beneath the surface, however,
dwells a bitter environmental conflict, and the battlefield is Paradise Reef (Nusser
Cozumel's oldest cruise ship dock, labeled number 1 in Figure 1.1, the International
Pier, sits on the extreme northern tip of Paradise Reef (Nusser 1997). The
international development consortium, Consorcio H, has built two additional cruise
ship piers since 1997. The second pier was completed in 1997 and the third pier
during the summer of2000. Utilitarians argue that the piers have brought more jobs
and tourists to Cozumel (Nusser 1997). However, ecologists and environmentalists
contend that the piers are built so close to the reef that the coral will eventually be
killed (Coral Reef Alliance 1998).
Jacques Cousteau's son, Jean-Michel Cousteau, first called attention to this
environmental controversy after Paradise Reef was declared "dead" by developers
(Walter 1995). In January of 1996, ecologists presented the case to the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (Nusser 1997). The construction at
Paradise Reef was the first case to be heard by NAFTA's Commission on
Environmental Cooperation (CEC) {Coral Reef Alliance 1998).
This paper examines the dilemma of the Mexican government destroying their own
finite tourism product, while at the same time relying on it as a major source of
tourism income. The tourism industry is often depicted as a win-win situation for
both tourists and locals. An idealistic cliche is that tourists take nothing but pictures
and leave nothing but footprints (Plog 1998:253). A positive benefit of tourism is
the creation of jobs and generation of income at an extremely rapid rate
(Greenwood 1972:87). However, the footprints left behind by an increasing number
of tourists in Cozumel do seem to be too many. A thriving reef translates into
millions of tourist dollars (Cousteau 1996). Destruction of Paradise Reef threatens
not only ecological stability but also

Figure 1.1 Cozumel Island
Source: Adopted from The Yucatan: A Guide to the Land of Maya Mysteries by Antoinette May.
Copyright 1993. Reprinted by permission of Wide World Publishing/Tetra, San Carlos, California

economic growth for Cozumel. The study demonstrates Mexico's failure to
effectively enforce its own and NAFTA's environmental laws with respect to the
piers. It appears that Mexico seeks to enhance its own short-term economic growth at
the expense of a natural resource.
The main issue is that Paradise Reef is threatened by the two newly constructed piers
that allow cruise ships to dock on top of its delicate ecosystem. Major damage to the
coral reef system may alter the overall physical beauty of Cozumel as a destination,
since maintenance of a high quality physical environment is its greatest attraction
(Agarwal 1989). The future of tourism in Cozumel depends upon the islands ability
to adapt to changing tourism patterns.
Cozumels ability to adjust to changing tourism patterns is measured according to
Butlers product life cycle (PLC) model (Butler 1980), which is often employed in
marketing. This model identifies six distinct growth stages that can either positively
or negatively affect an area (Agarwal 1989:195). The PLC model in Figure 1.2
explains how a travel product goes through six stages of growth: exploration,
involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, and post-stagnation (Butler .
1980). According to this model, a typical travel product gradually moves across a
spectrum, possibly toward its own extinction, because it may become too
commercialized and may thus lose the quality experience that attracted the visitor in
the first place (Butler 1980). The model is characterized by an S-shaped curve to
illustrate [a tourist areas] waxing and waning popularity (Butler 1980:5) that is
typical of an average progression for tourist destination development. This waxing
and waning occurs because an increase in either the x axis (number of tourists) or the
y axis (time) of the chart in Figure 1.2 often results in a diminishing overall
attractiveness of the destination (Butler 1980).
As the product moves across the spectrum, the product gradually changes the
original physical and cultural landscapes (Butler 1980:5). This altered landscape
brings changes in travel needs and preferences. Plog (1974) was the first to theorize
that the type of traveler changes as the tourist destination area and type of travel
pattern change. According to Plogs psychographic model, a travelers personality
determines the choice of destination. At one end of the psychographic continuum in
Figure 1.3 is the allocentric personality, seeking adventure in undeveloped areas. This
personality type prefers totally different cultures and environments. This personality
avoids traditional destinations and modes of transportation. Hence, they are
trendsetters. They help to establish new destinations. When a destination becomes
popular with other travelers, the allocentrics move on to explore new areas.

Figure 1.2 Tourism Product Cycle Of Growth
Source: Butler. R.W. 1980. Reprinted by permission from The Concept of a Tourist Area Cycle of
Evolution Canadian Geographer 24(1):7

Figure 1.3 Psychographic Positions Of Destinations, 1991
Source: Reprinted by permission Stanley C. Plog, Ph.D

At the opposite end of the continuum is the psychocentric personality, who does not
travel much. When they do travel, they dont venture too far from home because they
need consistency and reliability. Often, they return to the same place year after year,
thus avoiding unusual and unfamiliar situations. Falling between these two extremes
is the midcentric personality. Most travelers fall into this category. These travelers
are not afraid to try new travel experiences, as long as these experiences are not too
bizarre or challenging. Therefore, the environment cant seem too foreign; a fast-food
restaurant is reassuring to them. Mexico falls into this category.
Since psychographic characteristics can further the understanding of a destinations
life cycle, Butler has absorbed Plogs psychographic model into his six stage life
cycle model. When comparing Plogs graph to Butlers graph, their shapes are
identical. This pattern of a travel product cycle begins with an exploration stage,
where only a few adventuresome tourists will visit This allocentric type of tourist
prefers this stage, because of the lack of access and facilities (Butler 1980). However,
they especially enjoy discovery and challenging experiences (Tooman 1997). As
access is improved and facilities developed, tourist numbers will grow and thus enter
the involvement stage. During the development stage, the destination will experience
rapid growth, attracting midcentric tourists. In the consolidation stage, tourism
establishes itself as the main local economy. At this phase, growth often decreases as
ecological, socio-cultural, and economic carrying capacities are reached. At this
point, psychocentrics make up the majority of tourists, because the destination offers
a full array of familiar amenities and services (Tooman 1997). If the destination is
unable to rejuvenate, the area may stabilize or decline. The danger of decline may
happen when a destination has a well-established image, but it will no longer be in
fashion (Butler 1980:8), because the maximum number of visitors will have been
reached. The eventual decline may occur when an area is no longer able to appeal to
visitors because of competition from newer attractions (Butler 1980:9).
For Cozumel to grow from a state of little tourism use in the 1950s to one of
extensive cruise and dive development, a bell-curve path is followed, until the state
of maturation is reached (Meyer-Arendt 1993). Further, analysis of the PLC, as it
relates to the case of Cozumel, uncovers a highly complex human-environment
interrelationship (Meyer-Arendt 1993). This paper shows that limited environmental
disturbance takes place in the exploration stage. However, the development stage is
followed by heavy negative impacts upon the coral reefs. The later stages of the
growth cycle are characterized by a degrading coral environment, leading to
preservation efforts.
Placing Cozumel in the destination life cycle model will help identify appropriate
tourism development strategies of the island as a destination. The model assumes that

a destination rises and falls in popularity because of the psychology of travelers.
Because of the changing personality of tourists over time, Prosser (1994) argues that
tourism simulates a fashion industry. Hence, tourist motivations, expectations, and
demands (Prosser 1994:22) are based on which destination and activity is the latest
trend. An example of such a trend is the explosion of cruise visitors to Cozumel.
Here, Plogs psychographics and Butlers PLC concept are strongly interconnected,
as allocentrics spread a new fashionable travel idea to midcentrics, who in turn pass it
on to the psychocentrics.
It is important to understand coral reef issues, because reefs are vital environmental
and economic resources that give shelter to one quarter of all marine life. Also,
destruction of Paradise Reef would eliminate the primary source of income and
employment that tourism and marine recreation yields. In examining the arguments
for and against an increase of cruise ship piers, two issues stand out. One has to do
with choice of development model and the other with environmental regulation. A
prime challenge is that neither the mainstream sustainable development model nor
the ecodevelopment model can offer a sustainable solution to the issues concerning
Paradise Reef, because both models are at two unrealistic ends of a continuum. The
ecodevelopment approach sees people as part of nature, where development as we
know it ceases, and man becomes more fully part of nature (Borgstrom 1997:339).
The mainstream development approach sees continued growth as the only solution
to the poverty and the continuing degradation of the environment in the Third World
(Borgstrom 1997:338). Another challenge is the difficulty of developing tourism in a
nation where environmental regulation is relatively new or ignored (Nusser 1997).
Many places and things throughout the world are literally "loved to death" (Cousteau
1993:226). It is time to begin to manage that love. One is left to ponder whether
thinking globally can ever result in acting locally.
To develop this case study and to place Cozumel in the PLC, extensive review of
PLC case studies were conducted. The unit of analysis is Paradise Reef and the cruise
and dive industries. Since published tourism data on Cozumel is either not available
or very limited, qualitative methods of participant-observation, surveys, and semi-
structured interviews with tourists and employees in the tourism industry in Cozumel
were conducted on two separate trips to the island in December, 2000 and January,

As a Dane living abroad, I am what Agar (1996:56) refers to as a product of a multi-
cultural environment where I have become accustomed to cultural diversity. I do not
feel threatened by the different lifestyle of mass tourists and the local population,
rather I tend to become fascinated by the difference. Therefore, I describe the
Cozumel tourism culture by using all the senses: to look deeper into the culture, to
listen to the language and music, to smell the surroundings, to taste the micro beers,
and to touch the people.
I have used Agars (1996) and Geertzs (1988) model of being there. Hence, my
research begins with a general passive observation of the activities, people, and
physical aspects of the situation. As patterns are being discovered, I raised my level
of attention and actively engaged in various activities, such as gaining acceptance
among the local residents.
Dive shop owners, local residents, tourists and divers were asked to volunteer to
participate. Many respondents in Cozumel were identified with the assistance of a
personal friend who has been a certified diver for nearly 20 years and a dive master
for 5 years. Two key informants were identified from dive shops and among divers
and local residents. The observations took place specifically in the area of the cruise
ship piers due to ease of access to key informants among the diving, cruising, and
tourism communities.
A series of participant-observations of especially cruise visitors and divers were
made. After engaging in passive participant-observation, I sought to engage in
opening the [local] culture, unfolding it, revealing it, providing not only a sense of
surface form and rhythm, but also a sense of inner connections and interactions
(Ortner 1978:1). Therefore, my appearance was tailored as much as possible after the
local dress code while attempting to show a genuine interest in their island culture.
My goal was to gain a better understanding of the situation in Cozumel by raising my
level of attention and tuning in the things that are usually tuned out. I attempted to
search for Ortners (1978) inner connections by applying a holistic perspective in
order to increase awareness. I adapted Agars definition of holistic recognition: that
an isolated observation cannot be understood unless you understand its relationships
to other aspects of the situation in which it occurred (Agar 1996:125). One method
was to discontinue my passive observation and engage in active participation.
I just went with the flow of the situation as the scenario unfolded. In that respect,
ethnography is like traveling abroad. A traveler may have a rough idea of the
expectations of the trip, such as what to see and what to do. Traveling abroad, even
within the western world, takes common sense and a logical mind. Traveling with an

open mind provides a wonderful opportunity to mix with all kinds of people, to learn
more about their country and culture. Flexibility and patience yield a relaxing and
enriching experience.
Traveling abroad also requires a bottomless amount of patience and flexibility,
because .it is impossible to plan for the unexpected. Since it is impossible to predict
what lies beyond the mountain, the unexpected almost always happens. Often, a
traveler must think fast on his/her feet and know how to get out of a situation if it
becomes too dangerous or too uncomfortable. During my active participation, I had
to. unexpectedly alter my plans in order to blend in naturally with all these kinds of
people, such as when several criminal activities were revealed to me.
During my own tourism experience, I took field notes in the form of a journal in
which I wrote descriptions on what is going on. Identities of persons and businesses
are omitted from all written records. The journal notes focus on verbal and non-
verbal tourism behaviors in order to examine attitudes towards the locals, satisfaction
with the cruise product and dive product, participants tourism values, and degree of
cultural and environmental understanding and awareness.
Observations took place during a cruise on a major cruise line to Cozumel due to
ease of access to key informants among the cruise passengers. A survey (see
Appendix A) of 20 cruise passengers took place on the cruise ship. A structured
questionnaire containing 15 questions on the topic of cruising and tourism were
handed out. A variety of question formats were used. The first 10 questions were
closed-ended, followed by five open-ended items. The survey was preceded with an
introduction and an informed consent statement. No names were written on the
questionnaire or in any records. There was one survey per respondent. The
questionnaire took a few minutes for each respondent to complete.
Interviews were conducted in Cozumel, such as dive shops and stores. Semi-
structured interviews allowed the informants to speak spontaneously, while keeping
some structure in the interview. Each interview lasted about one-half hour. There was
one interview for each person. I asked very general questions for getting in and
make respondents comfortable. Questions from the interview guide in Appendix B
were used as a kind of checklist. These questions were subdivided into three core
environmental understanding, awareness, and threshold
economic benefits and disadvantages
socio-cultural effects and carrying capacities

I also conducted informal interviews with various members of the Cozumel culture. I
adapted Agars (1996) informal ethnographic interview style, because not having a
written list of questions worked better in a busy customer service oriented tourism
environment Rather, having a repertoire of questions-asking strategies from which
P can] draw as the moment seems appropriate (Agar 1996:140), enabled me to
casually chat with, for example, diamond store workers between serving customers
and taxi drivers enroute to downtown. Also, the strategy of informality minimized
harm to the natural flow of events into which formal questions may intrude (Agar
1996:140). Agars comment that observation and interview mutually interact with
each other, either simultaneously or sequentially (1996:158) fit in the tourism
atmosphere of Cozumel.
The primary method of data recording was field notes. I brought a small notebook
and a pencil. I mostly took notes at irregular occasions, because I followed the
hanging-out method of collecting data while attempting to show an interest in the
subjects (de Munck 1998). The notebook as well as a tape recorder were used during
the interviews. The procedure to secure anonymity was through a coding system. In a
notebook, each person was assigned and referred to as a code followed by a number,
because no real names of businesses, organizations, and people are necessary. For
example, the first tourist interviewed was assigned the code TOU1, while the second
was referred to as TOU2. Similarly, a dive interviewee was referred to as DIV1. A
complete compilation of interview codes can be examined in Appendix C.

The tremendous growth of tourism over the last 20 years is well recognized as an
agent of change (Williams and Gill 1998:231, Greenwood 1972). If this growth is
managed effectively, tourism has the potential of becoming a sustainable industry
that does not impose changes to the physical and cultural landscapes of a destination
area. However, improper management can result in tourism developing beyond a
destinations ecological, social, economic, and psychological thresholds. For
example, if construction of a cruise ship pier has resulted in an alteration of the
physical landscape in order to make room for the pier, then tourism has acted as the
agent of change of that landscape. Furthermore, tourism in itself also changes.
Tourism shares many features with the culture concept because both change over
time. Tourism and culture change at one time or another for a variety of reasons.
Without the ability to conceive new ideas and change existing behavior patterns, no
human society or tourism activity could survive for very long. Human culture and
tourism activities, though never static, are remarkably stable, but they are also
resilient and therefore able to adapt to altered conditions. Without change, neither
can adapt to changed conditions. Too much in the way of large-scale, continuing
change may place both in jeopardy.
Binfords (1962:22) view that culture is the tool to adapt to an environment reflects
the notion that change is inevitable. Binford further recognizes that it is culture that is
the intervening variable in the potentials of an environment. Diffusion and
acculturation are two agents of change shared by culture and tourism. For example,
Cozumel has borrowed many cultural elements from the United States, such as the
Internet Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, and Pizza Hut. Secondly, the local population and
United States visitors have come into intensive firsthand contact, resulting in massive
changes in the original culture patterns.
Another common feature is definition. Culture is described as one of the two or three
most complicated words in the English language, partly due to its complex historical
development (Williams 1983:87). Franz Boas recognized the complex historical
development of culture and created historical particularism, the idea that each culture
must be understood according to their own particular historical development (Boas
2000[1920]). Boas definition of culture refers to similarities and differences between

humans. Likewise, tourism has a complex historical development, resulting in
various definitions. Hence, some definitions highlight economic intentions of
tourism, while other definitions emphasize the human element (Leiper 1979).
Therefore, it is important to understand Cozumels situation according to its own
particular historical development.
Butler (1980) recognized the patterns of change with culture and tourism and
established the model of a tourist destination product life cycle (PLC). This model
borrows from the product life cycle concept used in marketing (Weaver 1990:9).
Kotlers (1997) definition of a product clearly shows its connection to tourism.
Kotler defines a product as anything that can be offered to a market to satisfy a want
or need. Products that are marketed include physical goods, services, persons, places,
organizations, and ideas (Kotler 1997:430). A Cozumel diving vacation represents
such a product. For example, diving as a tourism product has caught the attention of
North Americans who acquire the vacation and use the dive site to satisfy their wish
to dive. The Cozumel experience may include the corals as a physical good, the
services of a dive operator, and the idea of safe diving, promoted by persons such as
Jacques Cousteau.
Tourism contains many sub-products. A cruise is an example of one such sub-
product. Each tourism product distinguishes itself from the tangible product of most
other industries (Burke and Resnick 1991:17). These intangible variables include the
experience of the product, such as pleasure, adventure, and excitement. Because of
the intangible nature of the travel product, it is more difficult to market and sell than
a tangible product, such as a pair of jeans. For example, a Cozumel diving vacation
can not be seen, touched, or tried out before paying for it. If the diving vacation was a
bad experience, the product cannot be refunded. The travel product also differs from
the tangible product because its life can be almost indefinitely extended, if
appropriately supported (Onkvisit 1989:89). Each sub-product also has its own life
The idea of a tourism.destination life cycle has been in the tourism literature since
the late 1960s. The first study of a destination cycle of growth suggested a pattern in
which a destination becomes fashionable after being discovered by painters and
artists and eventually visited by tourists only (Butler 1980 [Christaller]). In 1974,
Plog introduced the concept of the rise and fall of destinations. His concept related
the famed reputation of a destination to a particular personality type. It was not until
Butler (1980) identified a certain growth pattern for destinations that PLC became
widely recognized as a useful model.

The basic principle behind the PLC approach in examining tourism patterns is the
recognition that tourism is not a static industry (Tooman 1997:918). Tourism
changes over time, while at the same time altering the ecological, socio-cultural, and
economic landscapes. Hence, the PLC concept emphasizes the impacts on these
landscape changes. It is important to bear in mind that Butlers model is hypothetical
and general. Goncalves and Aguas (1997) argue that the length of each stage cannot
be determined because of varying types of tourism products and varying levels of
planning and management.
Upon closer examination of these generalizations, two assumptions stand out. The
first assumption concerns negative growth over time. Such negative growth trends
include physical landscapes being replaced by development projects, sophisticated
visitors being replaced by less sophisticated ones, and tourism eventually self-
destructing (Butler 1980). Plog also believes decline is inevitable because
We can visualize a destination moving across a spectrum,
however gradually or slowly, but far too often inexorably
towards the potential of its own demise. Destination areas
carry with them the seeds of their own destruction, as they
allow themselves to become commercialized and lose their
qualities which originally attracted tourists [Plog 1974:58],
Such negative growth trends seem to contradict tourism planners assumption that
tourism products promise unlimited growth opportunities, with a continuous increase
in tourist arrivals (Butler 1980, Cooper and Jackson 1989).
The second assumption has to do with carrying capacity. Butlers decline stage
assumes that all carrying capacities have been exceeded resulting in death of the
destination. It is important to note that decline may not necessarily be inevitable
(Goncalves and Aguas 1997). Atlantic City in New Jersey has gone through all six
stages and was dying as a beach destination (Stansfield 1978). When legalized
gambling was approved in the early 1970s, Atlantic City was reborn and rejuvenated
with a new life cycle.
Even though the PLC has been widely accepted in tourism literature by tourism
analysts, such as Toomam, only a handful empirical studies have tested the
applicability of the model. For example, Weavers (1990) application of the model to
Grand Cayman Island provides evidence of its usefulness. The development of
Cayman Island as a destination only slightly deviates from Butlers model in that an
increase of local participation ensued after the development stage because
restrictions on growth was set by the government (Weaver 1990). Weavers studies

concluded that the limitations on growth resulted in a continuing phase of stability in
the consolidation stage. Cooper and Jackson (1989) also support the model. They
conducted a study of the life cycle in Isle of Man and concluded that the PLC
provides a useful descriptive tool for analyzing the development of destinations and
the evolution of their markets (Cooper and Jackson 1989:377), because the island
has gone through all the stages of the PLC.
Even though Butler acknowledges that not all destinations go through all the PLC
phases, several arguments against the PLC model have been proposed. Rink and
Swan (1979) have criticized Butlers model for being difficult to measure due to
unpredictability, and that many products therefore do not follow the prescribed cycle.
According to Rink and Swan, too many exceptions occur throughout the life cycle.
One such exception is Cancun. Since Cancun is a planned resort built from scratch
with no previous settlement, allocentrics did not explore Cancun before anyone else.
Thus, Cancun has skipped the first two exploration and involvement stages of
destination life cycle. Butler understood the universal and general nature of his
model, and he realized deviations must be expected with any universal concept. The
question remains whether a universality makes the concept less valid as a tool.
A study of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania during the early 1980s indicates that the
model cannot always be applied. Hovinen (1981) found that Lancaster Countys
involvement and development stages closely followed the PLC, but that the
exploration, consolidation, and stagnation stages didnt apply to Lancaster County.
Hovinen also predicted an unlikely decline due to its geographic advantage of being
easily accessible from nearby major cities.
Meyer-Arendts (1985, 1993) study of seaside resort developments along the Gulf of
Mexico revealed a complex human-environment relationship, which can also be seen
in Cozumel. Even though tourism development is often perceived as resulting in
environmental degradation, Meyer-Arendt found that environmental deterioration led
to increasing efforts at preservation.
Haywood (1986:166) calls the entire life cycle idea a self-fulfilling prophecy if the
life cycle is taken as a given. This is because the model does not take other
competing tourist areas into account. In other words, competition from Cancuns
extraordinary beaches and Belizes fabulous diving might affect the shape of
Cozumels curve. Haywood further argues that the growth model is too unilinear and
simplistic. In this view, any pattern is possible because the tourism product endures
constant changes in response to changes in supply and demand. Even so, Agarwal
(1989:195) argues that too much emphasis is placed on decline. Also, Agarwal (1989)

is surprised that management does not place a greater emphasis on the rejuvenation
phase, since large investments are taking place.
Plog and Butler provide ample evidence that some growth pattern is present in
destinations. Besides, Haywood (1986:154) recognizes that the simplistic life-to-
death cycle of the model helps reorientate thinking about tourist areas. The strength
of the PLC is its capability to show the growth trend of the tourist industry (Tooman
1997) while raising awareness of the impacts of various tourism activities.
Case studies demonstrate that it is challenging to obtain information for the
exploration stage, while the involvement and development stages are easily
documented. The information provided in the PLC concept is a helpful tool in
adjusting marketing strategies to match an ever-changing environment (Onkvisit and
Shaw 1989). It is equally important to bear in mind that people and products change
as well. The PLC can help understand the behavior of products and competitive
conditions (Onkvisit and Shaw 1989:108). Therefore, Cozumel as a travel
destination has changed over time according to the PLC model. For example,
Cozumel developed slowly at first, then underwent a swift growth rate, resulting in
saturation. The question remains whether Cozumel as a tourist destination will enter
the declining phase or be able to rejuvenate or stabilize.
Even though the effectiveness of the PLC is challenged, the theory does yield an
excellent structure for analysis (Tooman 1997:923), because many tourist
destinations appear to fit the PLC model by having gone through most of the phases.
The model
offers a framework from which the evolutionary nature of
tourism can be observed and anticipated. An exploration
stage may be difficult to perceive, and decline may not be
inevitable, but involvement and development stages were
observed in both the previous examples. These and the
consolidation stage clearly emphasize the significance of
tourism growth rates and the degree to which the industry
can dominate an economy. Further, the transition to
stagnation highlights the importance of capacity limitations
as considerations [Tooman 1997:925],
Analysis of Cozumel is conducted following Haywoods advice of having defined
the unit of analysis (Cozumel), market (cruising and diving), unit of measurement
(cruisers and divers), arid time unit (two weeks). Butlers (1980) use of PLC
indicators were also used. According to Butler (1980), a destination can be placed in

the cycle of growth based on the indicators listed in Table 2.1. Qualitative analysis of
these indicators and quantitative analysis of data that validates the indicators
comprise a major portion of this paper.
The PLC contends that there is an interrelationship between ecological conditions
and tourism activities. However, assessing a destinations carrying capacities is
challenged by this interrelationship between them and the various stages of the life
cycle (Tooman 1997:926). Tooman recognizes that a decline will occur when one of
the thresholds have been exceeded. It is important to understand where a tourist
destination fits in the PLC, because this knowledge can be used to develop and
implement tourism planning strategies towards an appropriate level of development
(Tooman 1997:929).
Carrying capacity is a confusing, contradictory, and yet powerful concept, because it
connotes strong political, economic, and/or socio-cultural ties. The concept often
conjures up images of a maximum number of tourists that can be contained in a
certain destination area (OReilly 1986:254). Once thresholds of capacity begin to
be approached or exceeded, the visitor experience and tourist industry become less
viable, resulting in the inability to sustain growth (Tooman 1997:925). Carrying
capacity is therefore a significant concern. Hence, proper planning and management
of growth and resource allocation are required so that the negative aspects of tourism
can be minimized while the economic, social, and ecological welfare of the
destination can be maintained.
At issue is who defines and decides on the capacity level. A deeper examination of
carrying capacity reveals two systems of thought that stand out. The first has to do
with preservationists embracing the environmental approach, and the second has to
do with conservationists adopting the community-based approach. An environmental
approach suggests that carrying capacity involves maintaining a balance between the
environment and visitors (Williams and Gill 1998:232) so that the maximum
number of people [who] can use a site without an unacceptable alteration in the
physical environment, and without an unacceptable decline in the quality of the
experience gained by visitor (Mathieson and Wall 1982:21) is maintained. The
challenge with this approach is the difficulty in determining what an unacceptable
level is and how to measure it.

Table 2.1 Product Life Gycle Stages and Indicators
Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Small numbers of allocentrics
-No specific tourist facilities/infrastructure
-Natural and/or cultural features
-High contact with local residents
-Area unchanged by tourism
Involvement (1976-1979)
-Local involvement
-Public investment
-Tourist areas emerge
-Tourist season emerge
Development (1980 -1988)
-Rapid growth in number of tourists
-Heavy advertising
-Well-defined tourist market
-Local involvement decline
-External investment
-Tourists outnumber local population
-Change in physical appearance
-Midcentrics replace allocentrics
Consolidation (1989 1998)
-Rate of visitors decline
-Attempts to overcome seasonality
-Economy tied to tourism
-Wide reaching marketing and advertising
-Opposition and discontent emerge
-Old facilities not desirable
-Deprivation upon locals activities
Stagnation (1999 present)
-Peak visitor numbers reached
-Capacity limits reached or exceeded
-Resort image divorces from environment
-Area no longer fashionable
-Heavy reliance on repeat visitation
-Well established image
- Psychocentrics replace midcentrics
-Complete change in attractions
-Move out of tourism activities
-High property turnover
-Local involvement increase

Butlers conservationist approach proposes that the threshold has been passed when
the tourist destination can no longer produce a quality tourist experience (Williams
and Gill 1998:233). A common indicator for this threshold is a decrease in market
demand. According to OReilly (1986:254), this decrease occurs because the
destination cannot absorb a higher number of visitors without negative, and
sometimes hostile, reactions from the host community.
Williams and Gill (1998) argue that application of carrying capacity is a complex
issue, because little evidence exists to suggest that by simply lowering or raising a
specific carrying capacity standard, predictable changes in an areas ability to handle
tourist use will occur. This complexity is exacerbated by OReillys (1986) notion
that little or no research of physical carrying capacity is being conducted for resort
developments. The difficulties in measuring and quantifying the thresholds have
restricted the use of carrying capacity as a planning tool (OReilly 1986:257).
The concept of sustainable development also presents a challenge, because
sustainability is a grossly overused and abused concept. The whole idea of
sustainability is a paradox, since we are trying to protect the very thing we want to
use. Because sustainable development is a relatively new concept, confusion abounds
(Lele 1991). The diversity of definitions reflects the enormous differences in social,
economic, and ecological expectations (Puntenney 1995). Sustainable development
of Paradise Reef is difficult, because "there is still great uncertainty as to what it
means, how it can be applied, and what practical outcomes it may have" (Morse and
Stocking 1995:31). Sustainable development may therefore become another
idealistic cliche without clear definition and objectives.
A closer look at the notion of sustainable development is needed. For example, does
sustainable development equal sustainability plus development? Development is
often synonymous with growth and progress. The term sustainability brings images
of continued strength, endurance, and support of human populations and natural
ecosystems. In the case of Cozumel, sustainable development seems like sugar and
vinegar. For example, the sugar of economic progress in the form of an 800 percent
increase in cruise visitors has brought with it the vinegar of squeezing out some local
The mainstream definition of sustainable development, adopted by the World
Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), notes that development
that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs (WCED 1987:43). If applying WCEDs
definition to Cozumel, then WCED assumes that Cozumel needs development and
that such development is a positive thing. However, the present need of Cozumel

does not seem to be development, because the basic human needs of shelter, food,
and jobs are met already. It does appear, though, that Cozumel needs to be careful not
to compromise its future generations. The alternative definition by Tolba (1987:3)
adds a refreshing approach: a strategy of economic common sense ... development
without destruction.
The strength of the sustainable development concept lies in its ambiguity, because it
allows people with different opinions about environment-development issues to
search for common ground without appearing to compromise their positions (Lele
1991:607). The vagueness of the term also allows the freedom to cut across...
boundaries (Lele 1991:612).
Ironically, the weakness of the concept is also its ambiguity, such as the difficulty in
determining whether its policies will enhance environmentally and socio- cultural
sensitive developments (Lele 1991:607). Inconsistent objectives are evident in that no
one seems to agree on what needs to be sustained and for whom, such as nature or
humans (Puntenney 1995).
The dilemma with the mainstream sustainable development approach is that it offers
a too simplistic explanation of a highly dynamic and interconnected environment-
development challenge. The mainstream approach often reflects personal or political
agendas (Lele 1991) while ignoring particularly uncertaintities about environmental
conditions, the interactions between resources and activities, and between different
uses or features of the same resource (Gow 1995:48). This utilitarian approach is
filled with biases and does not offer a sustainable solution to Paradise Reef being
threatened by an increase in piers and cruise visitors.
The ecodevelopment approach sees people as part of nature, where development as
we know it ceases, and man becomes more fully part of nature (Borgstrom
1997:339). However, this model does not offer a sustainable solution either. It is
unrealistic and idealistic to assume the construction of the pier will cease because of
environmental activism that dictates humans are part of nature. The paradox is that
divers and environmentalists dont necessarily wish to save the reef for the sake of
saving an ecosystem. They often only wish to save the reef so they can dive it.
Therefore, both approaches to sustainable development are situated at two utopian
ends of a continuum because
neither is able to spell out how to leap from todays
condition to that of the ideal spelled out in the respective
view of sustainable development to be realized. Thus, the
two images of the future stand separated from the present
[Borgstrom 1997:340.

As Lele points out, it is important for environmentalists and utilitarians to put aside
their differences and join hands under the banner of sustainable development to
tackle the myriad of problems facing us today (Lele 1991:618). According to the
world systems theory, might be a difficult task to join those hands.
Throughout the twentieth century, people all over the world have become participants
in a global world economy. This world system is represented in capitalism.
Capitalism is a commercial system of production and exchange that treats land,
labor, technology, money, raw materials, and goods and services as commodities to
be bought and sold for a profit (Bodley 2000:303). For example, a cruise passenger
might be vacationing on a ship built in Liberia. This cruise ship might serve Costa
Rican coffee and sell souvenirs made in China. This system of production,
consumption, and exchange is truly global, and few of the worlds people are totally
unaffected by it. The globe [is] a single interrelated system in which each country is
understood in terms of its relationship to the whole (Gardner and Lewis 1996:37).
Greenberg and Parks argument that a global market has expanded to include the
multiple cultural systems of the worlds people into a single, integrated economic
system (Greenberg and Park 1994:6) can be seen in Cozumel where some of its local
population have become a part of the cruise industry.
Wallerstein (1974 [as explained by Gardner and Lewis 1996])) subdivides the
capitalist world system into three distinct areas: the core, the semi-periphery, and the
periphery. In the periphery, economic development depends on the investments and
needs of the core areas. The economy in the peripheral areas is subjected to
unpredictable fluctuations in market prices and low wages. In the case of Cozumel,
the island is located on the periphery. Cozumel seems to be dependent upon the
Mexican government, which represents the core, for developments. For example, the
core gradually improved Cozumels poor accessibility and dirt roads. This kind of
theory is called dependency theory, because of the dependence of the peripheral areas
on the core and the exploitation of the periphery by the core.
When applying this dependency theory on a larger global scale, it can be seen that
Mexico as a nation is located on the periphery. This paper clearly shows that
Mexicos economic development heavily depends on the investments and needs of
the core area of the United States. In the early 1980s, Mexicos population reached
68 million and was anticipated to increase to 100 million by the year 2000 (Waters
1980-81). With such staggering population growth, Mexico seemed to suffer from an
acute need of rapid economic development in order to create jobs. In the case of
Cozumel, Mexico turned to the cruise industry for its solutions. Within a few years,
the Mexican government added two cruise ship piers, creating an 800 percent
increase of the volume of cruise passengers over that same period. Hence, Mexico

met the needs of a growing popularity of the cruise product in the North American
market. Mexico has turned the non-material resource of a cruise ship pier into a
commodity (Appadurai 1986 [as explained by Gardner and Lewis 1996]). As will be
seen in this paper, this commodity mediates and defines social relationships and self-
identity in Cozumel.
According to the world system theory, core areas dominate the world system. Such
states are characterized by capital-intensive systems of production and use of
advanced technologies to produce sophisticated manufactured goods (Greenberg and
Park 1994:7). A modem cruise ships reputation as a floating resort, complete with
swimming pools, Las Vegas style entertainment, and eight all-you-can-eat meals each
day illustrate such a sophisticated manufactured good. At the other extreme are
peripheral states... where labor-intensive systems of production predominates
(Greenberg and Park 1994:7). When cruise ships dock at Mexican ports, Mexico
supplies the ships with agricultural commodities, especially tropical fruits and
One challenge by this world system is the domineering core of the United States over
Mexico This core area seems self-serving with short term interests in profits from
increased cruise sales. Sustaining Paradise Reef is insignificant for the cruise lines.
Cozumel is only one out of many port possibilities in the Caribbean Sea. It is a quick
and easy decision for a cmise line to drop Cozumel as a port and add another in its
place. Mexico, as the domineering core over Cozumel, is also self-serving with only
short term interests in profits from increased cruise traffic.
Another challenge is to increase tourism development in a region where
environmental health is questionable. Since the controversy rests on different
attitudes and values concerning our world (DesJardin 1997), the Paradise Reef
controversy greatly shakes peoples fundamental perspectives. However, many places
and things throughout the world are literally "loved to death" (Cousteau 1993:226).
Therefore, it is time to begin to manage that love. One is left to ponder whether there
can be life in Cozumel if tourism fails.

: *Jf
Few places in the world have been so naturally endowed with superb diving
conditions. In the 1950s there was no mention of the sleepy little fishing community
of Cozumel in travel guidebooks. Then Jacques Cousteau discovered the underwater
wonders of the Belizean reef off the west coast of Cozumel and filmed a
documentary on Cozumel in 1961. Since then, the primary attraction of Cozumel for
visitors has been its unique natural environment of coral reefs.
Exploration Stage: 1961-1975
The selection of Cozumels Paradise Reef as a case study for testing the model of
tourism growth trends is based on two considerations. Like Grand Cayman and
Atlantic City, Cozumel has experienced rapid growth in the number of visitors during
the past 30 years (Weaver 1990:10). If the PLC curve in Figure 1.2. is compared with
the curve generated by annual visitor arrivals in Figure 3.1, the destination
superficially appears to have passed through the exploration, involvement,
development, and consolidation stages. However, Cozumel is currently showing signs
of slowing growth rates. Hence, Cozumel has already evolved through a significant
portion of the life cycle, allowing for a retrospective analysis.
Looking back at the early 1960s, Jacques Cousteaus rare documentaries gave a sense
of awe to an underwater world so unknown. It is fun to imagine being one of the
limited numbers of travelers who visited Cozumel in a sporadic and irregular pattern
in the 1960s, just as anticipated by Butler (1980:6-7). Since Jacque Cousteaus
popularization of diving in the late 1950s and early 1960s, divers began to be drawn
to Cozumel. Liebes and Liebes (1961) report that a Californian moved to Cozumel,
selling dive trips and renting out diving equipment. His dive boats would
accommodate up to six people. This trend of small dive operators continued through
the early 1970s (Carlson 1971).
Cozumel tended to draw the allocentric type of traveler described by Plog (1974,
1998), because the personality of these travelers prefers out-of-the-ordinary and little-
known destinations. Since allocentrics tended to avoid traditional vacation areas and
modes of transportation, they established Cozumel as a new dive destination.

Figure 3.1 Total Visitors To Cozumel
'60 '65 '70 '75 '80 85 '90 '95 '00
Total Visitors
1. Direction General de Politica Turistica 1989 Subsecretoria de Planeacion.
2. Lawton, L.J. and R.W Butler 1987 Cruise Ship Industry Patterns in the Caribbean 1880-1986.
Tourism Management. Pp 329-343.
3. Mexican Government Tourism Office 2000 Cruise Arrivals 1989-1998. Electronic document, accessed October 23.
4. Mexican Government Tourism Office 2000 Passenger Arrivals by Air 1989-1998. Electronic
document,, accessed October 23.

Cozumel was a place for high adventurers (Woodman 1966:39), because most
diving was a treasure hunting type of activity. Diving to numerous capsized and
sunken ships that lay scattered throughout Cozumels coral reefs quickly became
popularized (Woodman 1966, Toor 1967). In 1966, many of the young island boys
wear around their necks sixteenth-century gold crosses that they have salvaged from
the sea (Woodman 1966:35). By the early 1970s, thousands of items were recovered
from the wrecks (Carlson 1971:260). This sense of discovery and ... immersion in
new activities while there is still a sense of naturalness about them (Plog 1974:57)
is strongly preferred by allocentrics.
Allocentric divers were also attracted to Cozumel because the island was unchanged
by tourism. Several features attest to the unchanged environment. One such feature is
accessibility. Toor (1957,1965) verifies the poor accessibility of Cozumel with a
brief mention of an occasional freighter. Cozumels irregular passenger plane service
may have contributed to the small numbers of visitors. In 1966, there were four
flights per week from Miami or New Orleans to Cozumel with connections in Merida
(Wilhelm 1966). Wilhelms (1966:325) experience of Cozumels infrequent air
transportation was remembered as the airport being understaffed and planes most
likely not leaving on time. The following year, Mexico City was added as a
connecting point (Toor 1967). Also, the first direct flight from Miami to Cozumel
was put into service.
This non-touristy character of the island (Plog 1974) is exactly what was alluring
about Cozumel. With no telephones, one radio connection (Wilhelm 1966), no paved
roads (South American Handbook 1975), shopping of no interest (Liebes and Liebes
1961), with only a few shops in a small plaza (Wilhelm 1966), Cozumel certainly
seemed to fit the profile of the allocentric traveler.
Another attractive aspect was Cozumels natural characteristics, because there was
relatively little human impact upon the physical environment. The small size of San
Miguel Woodman attests to limited physical impacts: three thousand permanent
residents [were] within San Miguels immediate area and there [were] tiny
settlements each of about twenty-five inhabitants near the south lighthouse. The rest
of the island [was] unpopulated and undeveloped (Woodmanl966:33). The fact that
Cozumel was little developed is evident in that the interior part of the island, or 95
percent, iis uninhabited, with a wild and natural jungle landscape, barely touched by
human activity (Monografia del Municipo 1989). The economic dynamics of
Cozumel strongly contrast with the situation of underdevelopment that the interior
region experiences.

Butlers notion that the arrival and departure of tourists would be of relatively little
significance to the economic and social life of the permanent residents (Butler
1980:7) during the exploration phase can be seen in that most islanders were
fishermen (Toor 1967). The fishermen had high contact with the tourist. This contact
is described by the South American Handbook as joining the local fishermen at
night in catching... crabs(1971:670). The four locally owned and managed deluxe
hotels (Liebes and Liebesl961, Toor 1965), would also increase the likelihood of the
tourists being in contact with the locals. It is important to note that in 1996, all hotel
(and hence tourist) activity was limited to the small area of San Miguel and north of
town. By 1966, there were six hotels with three of them on the beach north of San
Because of Cozumels good weather year round and untrod beaches and reefs that
have never seen a fisherman, Woodman predicted that soon Cozumel seems
destined to take its place among the worlds great resort islands (Woodman
1966:33) Davies (1969) also noted Cozumels great tourist potentials. When
examining Table 3.1, it can be concluded that Cozumels exploration stage closely
follows the PLC model. Not everyone would agree. Budd pointed to Cozumels poor
water situation in 1970, that it [Cozumel] lacked ... fresh water. Without water there
really was not much potential for growth (Budd 1986:16). However, the adding of
Cozumel as a cruise destination in January of 1968 was the major turning point in the
islands tourism history.
Table 3.1 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1975
PLC Stages and Indicators Observations from Cozumel
Exploration (1961 -1975) Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Small numbers of allocentrics -Treasure hunting divers
-No specific tourist facilities/inffastructure -Poor accessibility
-Natural and/or cultural features -Coral reefs, good weather
-High contact with local residents -Small fishing community
-Area unchanged by tourism -No telephones

Involvement Stage: 1976-1979
Following Butlers life cycle model, Cozumel grew from a state of little tourism in
the 1950s to one of explosive growth during the 1960s and 1970s. The fact that the
island has emerged as a significant destination in a very short period of time shows
how tourism resembles the fashion industry (Prosser 1994). Diver motivations,
expectations, and demands in the 1960s were shared by the growing cruise business
(Bamberger 1967) of the 1970s. Cozumel became one of the latest fashionable travel
ideas. Exxon Travel Clubs (1978) description of Cozumel as a posh resort and the
in place to be, attests to the fashion idea of a tourist product.
Bottom-Up Development Approach
With few places to eat in Cozumel other than the hotel dining rooms (Carlson 1971),
some local residents saw an opportunity to actively participate in the decision-
making process (Gardner and Lewisl996:63) to open more restaurants. As active
agents, this local knowledge was used to plan the name and lay-out of their
restaurants as well as design the menus according to what is socially and culturally
acceptable (Gardner and Lewis 1996:67). With this local investment in tourism, it
can therefore be assumed that contact between visitors and locals increased during
this stage of tourism involvement.
This local participatory role is in accordance with Butlers notion that local people
begin to get involved by providing facilities and services primarily for tourists during
this stage. For example, Casa Deriis was the only restaurant in San Miguel in 1971
(Carlson 1971). Four restaurants, also serving local Yucatan dishes, had opened by
1976. In 1978, four additional restaurants had opened. Casa Denis was unique
approaching 50 years old, Casa Denis got its start when
Miss Juanita took pity on hungry construction workers
carving an airstrip out of the jungle and started feeding
them. Soon her kitchen wasnt large enough for everyone
who wanted to eat Miss Juanitas food [May 1997:77].

Another long-time local participant of tourism services is the owner of a jewelry shop
(LOCI). This Cozumel native has been carving jewelry and figurines since the early
1960s. He has been carving since the age of 8, progressing quickly from his
tombstone carving as his main source of income.
Public Investment
The history of Cozumel provides an excellent example of the effects of accessibility
on a small island. Accessibility was greatly enhanced during the mid 1970s by
Mexico allowing U.S. airlines to increase their direct flights to Cozumel (Truett and
Truett 1982). This is quite noteworthy, because Mexico has always attempted to
protect the monopoly of route structures and air fares for its own two national
airlines. Accessibility via sea has also improved. The South American Handbook
(1978) mentions that Cozumel is also accessible from Mexico mainland via a brief
ferry ride. From Playa del Carmen south of Cancun, a 45-minute ferry leaves three
times a day.
As seen in Figure 3:2, the addition of Cozumel as a cruise destination in January of
1968 (Bamberger 1967) was a major turning point in the islands tourism history.
Cozumel went from no cruise tourists in 1967 to receiving over 55,000 cruisers in
1976 (Lawton and Butler 1987), less than 10 years later. This growth is extraordinary
when considering a local population increase from 3,000 to 22,000, or 700 percent,
over the same period (Woodman 1966, Madrid 1999).
Tourist activities and tourism employment began to be organized around the cruise
industry. Tully (1976) made note of the new type of traveler: the affluent passenger
from luxury cruise lines. Tully did not seem impressed by these straw-hatted
bermuda-shorted tourists (Tully 1976:390). Instead, Tully highlighted the intrepid
skin diver, indicating that the allocentric treasure hunting diver was being replaced
by the sport- diver.
Infrastructural investments were noted in the 1978 edition of the South American
Handbook, mentioning that the islands main road was now paved. During the 1960s,
approximately 25 percent of all existing hotels were constructed (Monografia del
Municipo 1989). In 1960, there were 77 hotel rooms in Cozumel, a number that grew
to 449 rooms in 1970 and 1712 rooms by 1980. However, it is more noteworthy that
once the infrastructure was improved, a flurry of hotel expansion occurred.
Transformation of a physical environment to a cultural one is taking place (Meyer-
Arendt 1993). The growth is indicative of an emerging tourist area along the south-
west coast, because the first hotels were built south of San Miguel along this stretch

in thousands
Figure 3.2 Tourist Visitors by Mode of Transportation
2000 -i---------------------------------------
'60 65 70 75 '80 '85 '90 95 *00
| Cruise Arrivals
| | Air Arrivals
1. Direction General de Politica Turistica (tourism statistics) 1989 Subsecretoria de Planeacion.
2. Lawton, L. J and R. W Butler 1987 Cruise Ship Industry Patterns in the Caribbean 1880-1986.
Tourism Management Pp 329-343.
3. Goldstein, Robin S., ed. 1998 Isla Cozumel. In Lets Go Mexico. New York: St. Martin Press.
4. Liebes, Herman and Juanita Liebes 1961 Headquartering at Cozumel. In Rand McNally Guide to
Mexico. Pp. 317-321. New York: Rand McNally.
5. Madrid, Mario Villanneva 1999 Turismo (Tourism) In Quintana Roo. Pp 25-26
6. Mexican Government Tourism Office 2000 Cruise Arrivals 1989-1998. Electronic document, assessed October 23.
7. Mexican Government Tourism Office. 2000. Passenger Arrivals by Air 1989-1998. Electronic
document,, assessed October 23.
8. Monografia del Municipio. 1990. Aspectos Sociales (Social Aspects) Pp 7-21
9. Woodman, Jim 1966 Cozumel, In Discovering Yucatan Pp 32-67. Garden City: Doubleday &

of coast. The 1981 edition of the South American Handbook highlighted the west
coast of Cozumel as the prime area for divers and snorkelers. The promotion of the
winter months by Tully (1976) suggests that a tourist season is emerging as well. This
public and local involvement in developing tourism show how well the PLCs
involvement stage fits Cozumel (see Table 3.2).
Table 3.2 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1979
PLC Stages and Indicators Observations from Cozumel
Exploration (1961 -1975) Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Small numbers of allocentrics -Treasure hunting divers
-No specific tourist facilities/infrastructure -Poor accessibility
-Natural and/or cultural features -Coral reefs, good weather
-High contact with local residents -Small fishing community
-Area unchanged by tourism -No telephones
Involvement (1976-1979) Involvement (1976-1979)
-Local involvement -Casa Denis restaurant
-Public investment -Paved roads
-Tourist areas emerge -South-west coastal zone
-Tourist season emerge -November through April
Development Stage: 1980-1988
Tourism has evolved into one of the world's most significant means of economic
development. This rapid growth has created many challenges and opportunities for
tourism destinations struggling to keep pace and differentiate themselves in an
increasingly competitive marketplace. Since the 1960s, the tourism industry in
Cozumel, with little interruption, has continued its high growth rate. This would
seem to benefit many in the community. Tourism in Cozumel took shape in the early
1980s, with its designation as a cruise port for many companies.
Economic Aspirations of Cruise Business
Travel and tourism is the world's largest industry and is a major contributor to global
economic development. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC 1996)
reports that the travel industry employs more than 255 million people worldwide,
providing 1 out of 15 jobs. The industry is expected to add 130 million jobs by 2010
and to create 1 new job every 2.4 seconds (WTTC 1996). Furthermore, the travel

industry is expected to generate $7.1 trillion of gross output by 2010, a growth rate of
nearly 50 percent from 1995.
Waters (1980-81) made it clear that Mexico needs to be part of this rapidly growing
industry. In the early 1980s, Mexicos population reached 68 million and was
anticipated to increase to 100 million by the year 2000. With such staggering
population growth, Mexico seemed to suffer from an acute need of rapid economic
development in order to create jobs. Mexico turned to the tourism industry for its
solutions because tourism can create jobs at a faster pace than any other industry.
And it starts from a strong base already established (Waters 1980-81:74-75).
In 1979, Mexico learned the advantages of tourism: 700,000 new jobs were created
and 12 percent of those jobs were generated by tourism. This potential job
opportunity prompted Mexico to launch a forced-draft hotel building program
(Waters 1980-81:80), designed to spread hotels throughout the country, including
Cozumel. This dispersal was intended to provide jobs in rural areas and reverse the
flow of workers into big cities such as Mexico City. However, Mexico s shortage of
skilled hotel workers led to a large scale training program. In the case of Cozumel,
imported labor was increasingly used to fill many of the new hotel jobs available.
The extraordinary population rise in Figure 3.3 was explained by LOCI as a
combination of circumstances: the population explosion from 3,000 people in the
1960s is due to cruise ship workers and hotel workers from Mexico City. And cruise
workers families live here, because cruise ships dock here longer than anywhere
else. It appears that most diamond shops have also attracted non-Cozumel workers.
Many interviews revealed workers moving from Mexico City during the 1980s. As
LOC3 explained: I moved here 15 years ago from Mexico City and moved my
family here a few years later. Its safe here, a much nicer place to be, no crime, no
pollution. LOC3 even added: I love working here. Its like vacation. Its relaxing.
The National Tourism Council instigated a massive advertising campaign in the
United States, promoting its attractions and hospitality (Waters 1980-81). As
predicted by Butler, a well defined tourist market has emerged, with the United
States accounting for 83 percent of Mexicos visitors in 1980 (Waters 1980-81). The
dominance of the United States reflects its geographical proximity to Cozumel. The
accessibility of Cozumel to the major U.S. market was enhanced during the 1980s.
National as well as international air carriers offer non-stop service between Cozumel
and Houston, Merida, Mexico City, and Miami (Brosnahan 1985). In addition, a
hydrofoil service was established by 1985 direct from Cancun (Brosnahan 1985).

in thousands
Figure 3.3 Population Increase
1. Bantam 1989 Cozumel In A Bantam Travel Guide: Mexico. Pp 388-397. New York: Bantam
2 Burkett, Edward 2000 Caribbean Coral Reef Studies: Quantification of Community Structure of
Paraiso Nearshore Fringe Reef Cozumel, Mexico. Electronic document,, assessed December 12.
3. Madrid, Mario Villanneva 1999 Turismo (Tourism). In Quintana Roo. Pp 25-26.
4. Monografia del Municipo 1989 Aspectos Sociales (Social Aspects). In Monografia del Municipo
Cozumel: Centro Estatal de Estudios Municipales de Quintana Roo
5 Liebes, Herman and Juanita Liebes 1961 Headquartering at Cozumel. In Rand McNally Guide to
Mexico. Pp. 317-321. New York: Rand McNally
6. Woodman, Jim 1966 Cozumel. In Discovering Yucatan. Pp 32-67. Garden City: Doubleday &

The successful efforts by the National Tourism Council can be noticed in the
expansion of accommodations from nine hotels in 1978 to over 35 in 1980
(Monografia del Municipo 1989). Hotels in Cozumel consist mainly of medium-sized
hotels. Tourist accommodations are concentrated away from San Miguel and near the
dive sites. The new hotels seemed to be a good match for the midcentric type of
traveler who represents this stage (Plog 1974). These travelers are not afraid to try
new travel experiences as long as these experiences are not too bizarre or
challenging. The hotel building program would place Cozumel neatly hand-in-hand
with these travelers. For example, the Hotel Elizabeth is advertised as feeling as
comfortable as in your own home (Brosnahan 1985:443). The midcentric traveler
also fits well with the new Pancho Burger and Pizza Rolandi eating establishments,
because this cultural environment is somewhat Mexican, but not too Mexican. San
Miguels original restaurant, the Casa Denis, has remained virtually unchanged since
World WarH:
Cozumels little secret, Casa Denis, is known only to the
very in, including some of the rich and famous trend
setters. The casa is a private house with just several tables
set up under a shade tree in the courtyard. Denis and his
wife prepare and serve the set menu of the evening
. [Bantam 1989:395],
As a result of this growth, Cozumels business boomed tremendously. The boom
helped maintain the vitality of Cozumel. It is evident from the above data that the
most obvious direct economic benefit from the dive and cruise tourism businesses is
that of employment, income, and foreign exchange. This again has led to improved
living standards of a local population that grew from 2,330 in 1961 to 30,000 in 1988
(Liebes and Liebesl961, Bantam 1989). An important indirect benefit of the dive and
cruise industries is that it has served as a catalyst for expansion of other economic
sectors. For example, all-inclusive resort properties were added in an attempt to
attract an even wider market. A golf course is even slated for Cozumel in the near
future. Adding a golf course will widen the market even further, attracting ever larger
numbers of tourists.
The development stage is identified by rapid decline in local involvement and
control, because this stage is characterized by the highest growth rate. Growth is
certainly true for the cruise industry, which increased its passengers by 800 percent
between 1975 and 1985, from 55,542 passengers to 484,486 (Lawton and Butler
1987). In fact, Butler contends that during high season the number of visitors often
outnumber the local population. This is where Cozumel deviates from Butlers
model. Tourists have outnumbered the local population since the early 1960s.

Following 1980, the number of visitors, who stay less than 24 hours, is very important
(Monografia del Municipo 1989). These visitors arrive on cruise ships and their
number is expected to increase. It was widely believed that cruise visitors are
extremely important for Cozumels commerce.
Top-Down Development Approach
Mexican law states that coasts and beaches are public property of the nation and can
therefore not be purchased or owned (Merino 1987). According to Mexicos
constitution waters of the territorial seas, interior waters, lagoons, lakes, and rivers
are all property of the Nation. The Nation has direct dominion over all the resources
of the continental shelf and sea bottom around the islands(Merino 1987:35). The
federal coastal zone covers a width of 20 meters and land beyond this zone can be
purchased and owned.
Tourism development of coastal areas has received strong government support since
the early 1980s. In 1982,93 percent of federal investment in tourism went to coastal
developments (Merino 1987:32). Even though Cozumels coasts entered legal
protection in June 1980, Merino does not seem convinced about the seemingly
adequate and effective protection management programs One major challenge
towards control of coastal protection is the 20 meter zone. Merino did not appear
optimistic that the zone would widen in order to ensure adequate protection, because
private property owners and other economic activities adjacent to the zone were
fighting such a widening.
Since coasts and beaches are property of the nation, the federal government has much
more power than state and municipal governments (Merino 1987). Hence, coastal
developments and control over coastal resources have been exercised by federal
agencies. Even though a National Ecology Plan has been established to oversee
protection of environmentally fragile coastal areas, the plan is not enforced. The
National Ecology Plan must make sure an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS) is
completed for all potential development projects. Based on results from the
assessment, a permit may be granted or denied. Merino expressed great concern over
the effectiveness of such large scale plans at the federal level. Merino notes the
supreme power of the president and incorrect diversion of government funds as the
primary reasons for inefficiency.
Mexico enforces coastal development projects in a top-down manner. In this type of
development, plans are made by distant officials who have little idea what the
conditions, capabilities or needs are in the area or community which has been

earmarked for developmental interventions (Gardner and Lewis 1996:63). Since
coasts and beaches are national property and the president holds supreme power, the
development plans are imposed on the locals. This type of growth presupposes the
notion of trickle-down [effect], [however it is] unlikely to benefit everyone equally,
for by definition capitalism promotes accumulation for some at the expense of
others (Gardner and Lewis 1996:79). This is also quite evident in DOP2's comment
that: whether we want it or not, and the people are, like, No, we dont want it. But
the last thing I heard was that if we want it or not, it is going to be built.
Unfortunately, that is the way people are here. We fight, we jump, we scream, and at
the end we just shut up. Because its like any place. Money talks. Unfortunately,
thats the way it is, and its very scary.
Some locally provided facilities are displaced by outside-owned larger and more
elaborate ones (Butler 1980:8), and it can be expected that not all of them will be
welcomed or approved by all of the local population (Butler 1980:8). For example,
discontent with a sudden population boom since the early 1970s is expressed by the
owner of the jewelry shop. He voices his concern for Cozumels future, because he
has seen some local businesses being replaced by outside competition: [ ] didnt
make it. He had language problems. He couldnt communicate well with his dive
customers. Competition drove him out. I dont know where he is. Just the way it is.
It is important to note that developing Cozumels coasts is not necessarily a bad
thing. What is being examined is the way it is carried out (Gardner and Lewis
1996:63). For example, even though the development of Cozumel has carried with it
the benefit of jobs and an opportunity for increased income, this development
practice does not seem to measure qualitative costs, such as crowding, environmental
degradation, and economic leakage.
Cumulatively, tourist-related developments in Cozumel have resulted in changes to
the physical appearance of the local landscape, as anticipated by Butler (Weaver
1990) . For example, it is clear from Cozumels rapid growth that meeting the desires
of the tourist was given priority over environmental health (Williams and Gill 1998).
The close relationship of tourism and the physical environment seems to have been
ignored when Mexico planned tourism development projects, even though natural
resources offer important attractions for tourists (Inskeepl991). Exacerbating the
potential problems of the environmental impacts of increasing tourism in Cozumel is
that it has developed in an ecologically fragile and vulnerable coral reef area (Lnskeep
1991) . Some of these impacts are summarized in Table 3.3.

Table 3.3 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1988
PLC Stages and Indicators Observations from Cozumel
Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Small numbers of allocentrics
-No specific tourist facilities/infrastructure
-Natural and/or cultural features
-High contact with local residents
-Area unchanged by tourism
Involvement (1976-1979)
-Local involvement
-Public investment
-Tourist areas emerge
-Tourist season emerge
Development (1980 1988)
-Rapid growth in number of tourists
-Heavy advertising
-Well-defined tourist market
-Local involvement decline
-External investment
-Imported labor is necessary
-Tourists outnumber local population
-Change in physical appearance
-Midcentrics replace allocentrics
Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Treasure hunting divers
-Poor accessibility
-Coral reefs, good weather
-Small fishing community
-No telephones
Involvement (1976-1979)
-Casa Denis restaurant
-Paved roads
-South-west coastal zone
-November through April
Development (1980 1988)
-30,000 (1960) to 700,000 (1985)
-U.S. advertising campaign
-83% of visitors from the U.S.
-Dive shop went out of business
-Coastal development projects
-Workers from Mexico City
-700,000 visitors, 30,000 locals
-Hotel building program
-Cruise visitors outnumber dive visitors
Consolidation Stage: 1989-1998
This phase is characterized by the influx of major franchises and chains to the local
tourist economy (Butler 1980:8). Therefore, a significant part of a destinations
economy will be tied to tourism. Butler maintains that the rate of increase in
[tourism] numbers will decline (Butler 1980:8). Opposition among the host
population towards the tourism industry and the tourists begins to be evident, as
efforts towards expanding the tourism market to more distant travelers is widespread
(Tooman 1997). As indicated by Figure 3.1, the tourism industry is showing signs of
evolving into a slow growth market. Hence, Cozumel has found it necessary to
introduce strategies that are aimed at recapturing the minds of travelers. The 1989-94
tourism plan was implemented with a goal to increase the numbers of cruise ship
passengers and accrue more revenue from these visitors. This plan has resulted in the
regions heavy reliance of its economy upon the tourism sector. This reliance on
tourism and the opposition to tourism is summarized in Table 3.4.

Table 3.4 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-1998
PLC Stages and Indicators Observations from Cozumel
Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Small numbers of allocentrics
-No specific tourist facilities/infrastructure
-Natural and/or cultural features
-High contact with local residents
-Area unchanged by tourism
Involvement (1976-1979)
-Local involvement
-Public investment
-Tourist areas emerge
-Tourist season emerge
Development (1980 1988)
-Rapid growth in number of tourists
-Heavy advertising
-Well-defined tourist market
-Local involvement decline
-External investment
-Imported labor is necessary
-Tourists outnumber local population
-Change in physical appearance
-Midcentrics replace allocentrics
Consolidation (1989 1998)
-Rate of visitors decline
-Attempts to overcome seasonality
-Economy tied to tourism
-Wide reaching marketing and advertising
-Opposition and discontent emerge
-Old facilities not desirable
-Deprivation upon locals activities
Exploration (1961 1975)
-Treasure hunting divers
-Poor accessibility
-Coral reefs, good weather
-Small fishing community
-No telephones
Involvement (1976-1979)
-Casa Denis restaurant
-Paved roads
-South-west coastal zone
-November through April
Development (1980 1988)
-30,000 (1960) to 700,000 (1985)
-U.S. advertising campaign
-83% of visitors from the U.S.
-Dive shop went out of business
-Coastal development projects
-Workers from Mexico City
-700,000 visitors, 30,000 locals
-Hotel building program
-Cruise visitors outnumber dive visitors
Consolidation (1989 1998)
-700,000 (1989) to 985,000 (1998)
-Cruises year-round
-34% of Mexicos cruise dockings
-Concentrating on cruise market
-60% of locals did not want piers
-New, bigger, and better pier
-Not yet, but in stagnation stage

Environmental Paradox of Coral Destruction
Since 1989, the Mexican government has been especially active in tourism projects.
The 1989-94 tourism development plan aimed at modernizing the existing tourism
areas through innovative and highly visible construction (Casado 1997). However,
the effects of Mexico's tourism upon Paradise Reef are not all that visible.
In 1990, the number of tourists arriving Mexico by sea at its eight ports offering
cruise ship docking service increased only 0.1 percent from the previous year
(Casado 1997). Cozumel was the most active port, registering 34 percent of the total
dockings (Casado 1997:47). The Mexican government decided that a second pier
was necessary in order to handle increased traffic, since often two or three ships sit
anchored off Cozumel, because there is no room to dock (Nusser 1997:1). However,
it is important to note that the Coral Reef Alliance (1997) has reported that 60
percent of Cozumels residents did not want an additional two piers.
Mexicos 1989-94 tourism plan emphasized ecological preservation of natural
resources (Casado 1997:46). However, Consorcio H built an 1,800-foot cruise ship
pier 450 feet from the first ridge of Paradise Reef anyway (Nusser 1997), even though
to the north lay miles of coast devoid of coral reefs (TED case studies 2001).
Paradise Reef used to extend much farther than its present encompassing state. The
first pier was built off the northern tip of the reef, and as a likely result, the coral
below it died (TED case studies 2001). Perhaps Consorcio H has tried to prevent
that from happening again. Consorcio H claimed that the pier would only hurt three
percent of the 600-foot wide reef (Nusser 1997).
Consorcio H proposed "transplanting" the endangered three percent of the reef,
convincing the Mexican government that Paradise Reef is dead and that building over
the reef would cause no harm (Cousteau 1996). As DOP2 explained: Somebody was
sent by a person from an office in Mexico City. That person took pictures and
according to what was in the news is that they took pictures of dead coral, of a really
deserted area and said, here are pictures of the area where the pier is going to be
built. Nothing is going to get hurt. Of course, people in Mexico City dont know
anything about the way our underwater environment works. So they went ahead and
Paradise Reef is an extraordinary case of supreme federal power over coastal
development and control over coastal resources. Even though Paradise Reef was

under federal protection as part of its National Marine Park, Mexico's National
Institute of Ecology issued a construction permit to Consorcio H in late 1994,
insisting that the project is in accordance with our environmental laws (Nusser
1997:2). Acting upon advice from Consorcio H, Institute officials first proclaimed the
reef dead, then justified the pier on the grounds of increased tourist interest in
visiting the dead attraction (Cousteau 1996:2).
Contradicting the study that defined Paradise Reef as dead was a study by the
University of Wisconsin. This study found that running through the site for pier
construction was a thriving near-shore fringe reef (Burkett 2000). This healthy and
living reef with organisms covering 32 percent of the bottom substrate boasts 72
percent of the hard coral species and 33 percent of the fish species found on reefs in
Cozumel (Burkett 2000). Jean-Michel Cousteau also contradicted the study with his
two-hour environmentally oriented presentation at West Virginia University on
February 20,1997.
When the cruise ship pier at Paradise Reef was in the
planning stages, the reef had been declared dead and the
building of the pier was approved. Cousteau spent weeks
trying to explain to the governor of Cozumel that the reef
was not dead and finally convinced him to dive Paradise
Reef to see for himself. The governor was accompanied by
quite a large entourage on the dive. As they approached the
reef a diver in a blue t-shirt and swimming trunks swam up,
took the governor by the arm and tried to lead him away
from the reef, pointing at the sand. Obviously this guy was
a proponent of the pier being built and was trying to show
the governor that there was nothing but sand there, no reef -
alive or dead. Another diver in the entourage had the
governor's other arm and was trying to lead him over the
reef. In essence there was a tug of war with the governor.
One of the security people in the entourage picked up
apiece of fire coral with a gloved hand and shoved it up the
trunks of the diver in the blue t-shirt. He left immediately!
After the dive the governor immediately declared the reef
alive and no pier would be built there. However, big
business, greed, and money has won and the pier is now a
reality [fax to author, August 8,2000].
According to DOP2, the National Marine Park limits used to embrace the southeast,
south, and southwest coast of the island all the way north to downtown San Miguel.

In 1996, before the second pier by Paradise Reef was built in 1997, the government
moved the limits of the national park (indicated by a red line in Figure 1.1) south of
the second pier. All three piers are now outside the boundaries of the National
Marine Park, covering approximately 85% of the diving sites around Cozumel.
Phillips (1999:54) finds this rather suspicious, because at the time of the
announcement the government was under heavy fire for allowing a cruise ship pier to
be built over north Paradise Reef. The problems with cruise ship piers located
within the National Marine Park were evident to DOP2:
The damage from the cruise ships is very visible from the
north part. And one of the things that was really bad for
this area was when the crew member would throw in their
lines as soon as they got to the dock, because they were
fishing in a national park. Even when the limits were set
and the pier was within the national park, nobody did
anything about it. No one said anything to the crew
members about fishing within a national park. And around
1993 there was trash and fishing lines everywhere from the
cruise ships and the crew members.
The construction at Paradise Reef is the first case to be heard by NAFTA's
environmental commission (Coral Reef Alliance 1997). The Commission for
Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was created to monitor ecological protection in
the member nations of Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and part of its mission
is to ensure that the three governments live up to their own environmental laws (CEC
2000). Mexican environmental principles are established primarily in their own
federal Ecology Law. The primary goal of ecological balance was disregarded in the
permitting process because of the failure to file a required Environmental Impact
Assessment (Cousteau 1996). Since no research was officially conducted,
implementation of Agenda 21 (a Sustainable Development Commision) had been
broken. Agenda 21 was established at the Rio Summit in 1992 for achieving
sustainable development in both developed and developing nations (WTTC1996).
Even though Mexico participated in the summit and announced its support of the
agenda, a Municipal Zoning and Land Use Plan has yet to be revealed for Cozumel
(Cousteau 1996).
Mexicos plan has been made fairly visible, though: For example, the second pier can
accommodate two ships. Doubling the number of cruise ships equates to a doubling
of anchors repeatedly tossed onto living corals. Anchors will dislodge chunks of the
coral heads every time they are pulled back up (DOP2). The corals are colonies of
small animals called polyps (Odum 1997). Six tentacles on each polyp feed on

microscopic zooplankton. Some corals secrete calcium at the polyp's base, thus
creating the hard skeleton that grows, generation after generation, building up onto a
coral head. A 10-foot column of coral can represent 8,000 years of growth. One
anchor can destroy 8,000 years in a few seconds {Coral Reef Alliance 2000).
One of the worst destructive impacts of the pier is the blocking out of sunlight. Solar
energy powers these ecosystems, so the pattern of solar energy receipt is crucial
(Odum 1997). Solar energy enters an ecosystem by way of photosynthesis. Corals
depend on the sun for photosynthesis and are generally found at depths of less than
1-50 feet, where the bright sunlight can penetrate. Corals live in a symbiotic
relationship with algae, with each dependent upon the other for survival. Corals
cannot photosynthesize, but they do ingest some of their own nourishment. Algae
perform photosynthesis and convert solar energy to.chemical energy in the system,
providing the coral with about 60 percent of its nutrition. Blocking the sunlight will
also cause a major alteration of the quality of water. Corals occupy a very specific
ecological zone, with a water temperature of 68-85 degrees F. Reef-building polyps
cannot survive in water colder than 68 degrees F, and require clear, sediment-free
Another impact by the pier construction is the elimination of the habitat of the rare
Splendid Toadfish, widely believed to be found only in Paradise Reef (Rosenberg
1992). At night, the 12-inch long toadfish, with "whiskers" growing from its lower
jaw, is known for making low grunting mating noises by vibrating the walls of its
swim-bladder. The toadfish can be found peeking out from the entrance of low
crevices on the sand bottom or from under coral heads closer to shore. The critical
number needed to keep the toadfish from extinction is yet not known. Interference
with the Paradise Reef ecosystem may also cause the loss of a storm barrier that
protects the leeward western shoreline of Cozumel from erosion (Odum 1997).
Paradise Reef keeps the beaches and communities intact and provides ships with safe
harbor. Damage to Paradise Reef may even destroy the reef-dependent fisheries that
rely on the reef as a source of income and food. The local restaurants and markets
depend on the fishing trade. If reef disturbance continues at its present rate, this
valuable coral resource could quickly be lost.
Cozumel's main attraction has always been its beautiful reefs. Adding another pier to
Cozumel will bring even more cruise tourists, who will browse the boutiques and
souvenir shops and reboard their ship at night, mostly unaware of the reef, and
equally unaware of their impact upon it. It is evident that there is a conflict of
interest, since cruise passengers usually are not divers, and that over 60 percent of the
local residents opposed building the pier at Paradise Reef {Coral Reef Alliance

Hence, the utilitarian reasoning behind the pier construction seems to have been used
by the Mexican government (DesJardin 1997). The utilitarian theoiy argues to
maximize the overall good, or to produce the greatest good for the greatest number
(DesJardin 1997:24). In other words, the decision to build a new pier may have been
based on its usefulness in producing good consequences (DesJardin 1997:24).
However, such a top-down development approach raises two important questions: the
first has to do with how to quantify the intrinsic value of good, and the second has
to do with how to measure the greatest number. The decision to build a new pier
may also have been based on self-serving interests from the domineering cores of the
United States and Mexico.
This mainstream utilitarian development model is used to measure the overall
benefits, such as income generated, job creation and reduction of unemployment, to
the economy (Tooman 1997:918), while the effects on future generations are ignored
(DesJardin 1997:26). The top-down approach is often adopted by the economically
and politically dominant that believe the benefits of tourism will be widely
dispersed in the economy (Tooman (1997:919). Clearly, the contents of Mexicos
1989-94 tourism plan were anthropocentric in that direct responsibilities to the
natural world were carefully avoided (DesJardin 1997:10).
The mainstream development approach does not offer a sustainable solution to
Paradise Reef being threatened by a pier construction, because economic gain occurs
at the expense of ecology (Borgstrom 1997:338). This development model of
placing material utility above natural beauty sets itself up for failure, because it
assumes there is a need for economic growth (Borgstrom 1997:335). It is clear that
this approach to solving environment problems seems quite similar to the familiar
culture-nature dichotomy where nature is distinct from man (Borgstrom 1997:339).
This form of thinking sets nature in opposition to culture. However, in the case of
Paradise Reef, continuous economic growth and pier expansion has had unwanted
effects on nature, effects that might, if they are to continue, strike back at
society(Borgstrom 1997:336).
Mexicos 1989-94 tourism plan seems to have widened this gap with the objective to
achieve a balanced development of regional tourism by fostering the use of natural,
historical, and cultural resources (Casado 1997:46). Although Mexico believed that
tourism has an immense potential in the development of an area's economy, it cannot
cure many of its ills. As the coral ecosystems in the more developed nations have
degraded over time, tourists continue to seek out more remote and pristine

The reefs off Cozumel are part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world, the
Belizean Reef, and are also the longest reef system in the Western Hemisphere
(Rosenberg 1992). The reefs closeness to shore, (about 150 to 200 yards straight out),
is only one of many reasons why Paradise Reef attracts divers worldwide (Rosenberg
1992). This area is known for its light to moderate currents, which make diving easy
for beginners. Paradise Reef also receives worldwide attention for its varied and
abundant marine life. Every size, color, and description is found in the myriad of
cracks, crevices and overhangs on either side of the reef.

For all of the possible benefits,... tourism can get out of control if not managed
properly, and it can incur many ecological and sociological costs.... Tourism
development presents a special phenomenon which, if too successful, can destroy
the very natural, social, and economic resources it was meant to protect (Long
Stagnation Stage: 1999 Present
When the number of tourists exceeds an area's ability to cope with it, there is bound
to be a deterioration in basic natural resources (Butler 1980). The maximum number
of people that can use Cozumel's western shore without causing environmental
degradation needs to be determined. Table 4.1 shows that the maximum number may
already have been reached. A major issue is the ability of the coral to survive in the
midst of increasing tourism. Intensive tourism development in a previously tranquil
coastal area can cause irreversible damage to a thriving coral reef. Coral reefs have
extremely delicate ecosystems that need to be protected from excessive tourism, as
they do not have the ability to recover from major damage. Coral is a living animal,
and if unchecked development continues, tourism will end up killing the very thing
that attracted the tourists in the first place (Butler 1980).
Physical Threshold
With a vulnerable resource base in mind, it becomes clear that the tourism life cycle
and the concept of carrying capacity are interrelated in a dynamic manner (Martin
and Uysal 1990:327). For example, the notion that Cozumel has a physical carrying
capacity assumes that a threshold will be reached at some point (Martin and Uysal
1990:327). In assessing the ecological threshold, OReillys definition of physical
carrying capacity seems befitting: the limit of the island of Cozumel may be beyond
which... environmental problems will arise (OReilly 1986:256). Two significant
variables, the number of divers and the quality of divers, are evaluated in order to
analyze the ecological impacts.

Table 4.1 Product Life Cycle Indicators, 1961-present
PLC Stages and Indicators Observations from Cozumel
Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Small numbers of allocentrics
-No specific tourist facilities/infrastructure
-Natural and/or cultural features
-High contact with local residents
-Area unchanged by tourism
Involvement (1976-1979)
-Local involvement
-Public investment
-Tourist areas emerge
-Tourist season emerge
Development (1980 1988)
-Rapid growth in number of tourists
-Heavy advertising
-Well-defined tourist market
-Local involvement decline
-External investment
-Imported labor is necessary
-Tourists outnumber local population
-Change in physical appearance
-Midcentrics replace allocentrics
Consolidation (1989 1998)
-Rate of visitors decline
-Attempts to overcome seasonality
-Economy tied to tourism
-Wide reaching marketing and advertising
-Opposition and discontent emerge 1
-Old facilities not desirable
-Deprivation upon locals activities
Stagnation (1999 present)
-Peak visitor numbers reached
-Capacity limits reached or exceeded
-Resort image divorces from environment
-Area no longer fashionable
Exploration (1961 -1975)
-Treasure hunting divers
-Poor accessibility
-Coral reefs, good weather
-Small fishing community
-No telephones
Involvement (1976-1979)
-Casa Denis restaurant
-Paved roads
-South-west coastal zone
-November through April
Development (1980 1988)
-30,000 (1960) to 700,000 (1985)
-U.S. advertising campaign
-83% of visitors from the U.S.
-Dive shop went out of business
-Coastal development projects
-Workers from Mexico City
-700,000 visitors, 30,000 locals
-Hotel building program
-Cruise visitors outnumber dive visitors
Consolidation (1989 1998)
-700,000 (1989) to 985,000 (1998)
-Cruises year-round
-34% of Mexicos cruise dockings
-Concentrating on cruise market
-60% of locals did not want piers
-New, bigger, and better pier
-Not yet, but in stagnation stage
Stagnation (1999 present)
-11,000 cruise visitors every Wednesday
-All four thresholds are reached
-Shopping mall opens summer 2001
-For highly experienced divers only

Since 1998, a major change in Cozumel has been the catamaran and cattle boat
businesses. A catamaran is a boat that can accommodate up to 140 people, and it
departs from a cruise ship pier for a one-hour snorkeling excursion. After a brief
lunch, the catamaran returns to the cruise ship. A major cruise line that docks in
Cozumel eight times a week offers three such catamaran excursions per ship per day.
Typically, two catamarans go to Paradise Reef near the pier, while the third straddles
the boundary of the National Marine Park, keeping all snorkelers just outside the
The so-called cattle boat is a dive boat that accommodates 40 divers. DOP2 deemed
the cattle boats unsafe, because of the numbers. DOP2 finds it difficult to keep an
eye on 40 divers at once, because they are all at different levels. Some divers will be
beginners and will linger at the surface for several minutes. Others are more
advanced and will jump into the water and immediately go to the bottom. In contrast,
DOP2 has one boat that accommodates no more than six divers, hence continuing the
original dive boat tradition of the 1960s. The small number of divers enables DOP2
to provide a better service and to keep control of each diver. He also protects the
environment for the future. DOP2 does not allow people to damage anything, because
the reefs arent forever and they wont be here for a long time if we dont take care
of them. Thats the way it works. So we have to be really, really careful. Despite
DOP2's great care, the latest snuba (a combination of snorkel and scuba) diving
fashion idea has been promoted by the cruise lines since 1998. A snuba program
takes uncertified, and hence inexperienced, people scuba diving for about 45 minutes
to depths of up to 25 feet.
One important point is that catamarans and cattle boats dont have permission to
enter the marine park (DOP2). Instead, they are taking divers and snorkelers to the
closest and usually the most abused reef, such as Paradise Reef, half way between the
pier and marine park boundary. Since cruise ship passengers have limited time in
port, divers from cruise ships wont dive far from the ships. Destruction of the reefs
near the cruise ships is greatest because of a greater volume of divers and because
the cruise passengers are the worst divers. Theyre the most destructive (DIV1).
However, it could also be argued that at least these destructive divers wreck one
small area that has little interest to the more serious diver. If reef damage can be
confined to this area, perhaps the remainder of Cozumels reefs can be saved from
excessive damage. The more experienced divers go to the southern range, because
you dont want a crowd. You dont want a bunch of people around you. Youre there
to see the fish. Youre not there to see other divers. Youre there to see the coral and
the invertebrates (DIV1). Even so, Cozumel receives 300,000 divers per year
(Burkett 2000).

While the number:quality ratio does not explain much about environmental impacts
(Romeril 1989), the sheer pressure of increased number of visitors has resulted in
some negative environmental problems. The point here is that the number of less
experienced divers from cruise ships has grown tremendously over the last two years.
This continued growth increases the risk of coral reef damage and possible
destruction. Also, the increased number of dive boats and divers has shown signs of
interference with marine life behavioral patterns. For example, the behavioral pattern
of the shark has been altered and its habitat disrupted or reduced. The Caribbean reef
shark used to be seen everywhere at a depth of 80 feet, but now it can only be seen at
100-120 feet (DOP2).
DOP3 also acknowledged that ten years ago, he used to touch the reef fish and swim
through a big school of fish, because its fun to swim through a bunch of fish.
However, he now knows that swimming right through fish will scare them so that the
fish will find another area to be in. Still, he continues to see some divers swimming
through schools of fish. DOP3 even made reference to a dive instructor that used to
use a stick to drag out fish from under rocks to show his dive customers. Marine life
has been greatly affected. It [marine life] is still great, but not the same. Many dive
boats constantly plow the waters at great speeds.
At issue is that tourism has evolved into one of the world's most significant means of
economic development in the world. This rapid growth has created many challenges -
and opportunities for tourism destinations struggling to keep pace and differentiate
themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. When the number of tourists
exceeds an area's ability to cope with it, there is bound to be a deterioration in basic
natural resources. A major issue is the ability of the coral reef ecosystem to survive
with the influx of less educated divers. Another major issue is the dive operators who
market diving to people without the skills or knowledge to dive.
Social Threshold
Cozumels social carrying capacity, the level at which the local population can
tolerate the presence and behavior of tourists (OReilly 1986:256), is beginning to
peak. What is getting to be the problem is the downtown area and the new
construction by the third pier (DOP2) scheduled to be completed by summer 2001.
The government is creating a new plaza (labeled A in Figure 1.1) with a shopping
center across from the pier. Visitors will be funneled into the plaza via an enclosed
walkway, by-passing the old downtown plaza (labeled B in Figure 1.1) and waterfront
stores. A lot of people are already complaining. The shopping center will drive some
out of business (DOP3).

Here, the counter-argument resembles that of the destructive Paradise Reef divers.
Since cruise visitors will be tunneled into the plaza via an enclosed walkway, these
shoppers are confined to one small area, separated from the locals. Therefore, the
locals are not bothered by the cruise visitor volume.
Another major issue is the segregation of tourists and locals. The government is
trying to get as much money as possible from the tourism industry. For example,
DOP2 explains that the area by Punta Sur at the southernmost tip of Cozumel used to
be open to the public and the local people. It was a nice area. It used to be taken
care of by a family, and he used to go there to eat fresh fish, sit on the beach, and
spend the day. Now the government has put up gates, cleaned up the beaches, and
built a couple of restaurants and gift shops. There is now a $7 entrance fee. It is no
longer open to the public. DOP2's concern is that we no longer have the nice private
places where you can go and lay out. Everything is taken care of. Pretty soon the
locals are not going to have any access to any of the beaches close by because all of
them are going to be taken up by big resorts. Therefore, when you try and go through
the hotel to get to the beach, youre not allowed to, because it is private.
The culture of Cozumel has been changing over the last few years. Thats what
happens when a paradise is found first by scuba divers and later by a fleet of
towering cruise ships (Brown 2001:60). First of all, it is a myth that Cozumel is
cheap: the unbelievable bargains Cozumel was once known for have vanished
(Brown 2001:60). Often, the prices are the same in Cozumel as they are in the United
States. For example, lunch runs at least $5, and many souvenirs are even more
expensive in Cozumel than in the United States. Here, the advantage goes to the
locals. The higher prices would mean a higher income level. The changing culture of
Cozumel is nicely summarized by DOP2:
The only port that actually is a pier is this pier [he points].
While working on this pier I have somehow influenced the
tourism on the island in that they bring a lot of people
down to this area. At the same time, these people dont
really realize what they are coming into. They view
Cozumel as a beautiful place with the sun, buy a T-shirt,
stay here and swim around or do something that is fun for
them. The people arent here to really appreciate what
Mexico is all about or get really close to the culture. Its
just like going out at night time, like to a restaurant, then
they go home. Big Deal! I think it would be really good
for the people to get to know and find out what Cozumel is
really all about and what it has to offer. There is a lot of

cultural stuff to offer here, and basically, whats going on
with this is that outside the port, yes it brings a lot of
people down here. But at the same time it is somehow
affecting the way of living on the island. For example, it
affects the transportation. When we have cruise ships in
town, taxi drivers are more worried about taking people
that are going to pay with dollars rather than taking people
in the downtown area. Because we live here and because
we pay in pesos. I understand that. But it will be different
because people on the cruise ship dont really know what
the rates are, and they usually get ripped off by the people.
And people get ticked off because they will be waiting for
transportation and the taxi drivers will just be waiting there
for the people with the money to get off the cruise ship.
The culture around the piers is affected.
This disinterest in the local culture appeared as an underlying theme in the cruise
survey responses. Table 4.2 shows that the vast majority of the 20 passengers
surveyed were mostly concerned with receiving a good vacation value. An interest in
the culture of Cozumel was not apparent. Even though half the passengers considered
it important to have the cruise vacation as an opportunity to learn, just as many were
not interested in increasing their environmental awareness or broadening their
cultural horizon, even though the ship was bound for a foreign destination. One is left
to ponder: which learning opportunity were the passengers thinking about? While
there is nothing wrong with wanting a sun-sand-shopping type of vacation, the
dilemma argued here is the cultural footprints left behind from the average cruise
Shopping opportunity, low cost vacation, and convenient travel product were exactly
what most cruise passengers were looking for. Table 4.3 shows that those three
motivations account for nearly 60 percent of the reasons for purchasing a cruise
travel product. 13 out of 20 surveyed people, or 65 percent, went shopping in
Cozumel, while 18 out of 20, or 90 percent, listed convenience as the most important
reason for cruising to Cozumel. Cultural ignorance seems to be the issue here. As
Smith points out: geographic isolation of the U.S. (and often American
ethnocentrism) surfaces in our lack of knowledge and/or understanding of the cultural
baggage brought by the visitor (Smith 1992:3).

Table 4.2 Cruise Passenger Interest
Frequency Percent Cum. Percent
Opportunity to learn
extremely important
somewhat important
somewhat unimportant
not at all important
Increased environmental awareness
extremely important
somewhat important
somewhat unimportant
not at all important
Good value for money spent
extremely important
somewhat unimportant
somewhat important
not at all important
Educational lectures/seminars
extremely important
somewhat important
somewhat unimportant
not at all important
Broadening cultural horizon
extremely important
somewhat important
somewhat unimportant
not at all important
3 15.0 15.0
1 5.0 20.0
10 50.0 70.0
6 30.0 100.0
0 20 0.0 100.0
1 5.0 5.0
3 15.0 20.0
6 30.0 50.0
6 30.0 80.0
4 20 20.0 100.0
15 75.0 75.0
0 0.0 75.0
5 25.0 100.0
0 0.0 100.0
0 20 0.0 100.0
2 10.0 10.0
2 10.0 20.0
8 40.0 60.0
4 20.0 80.0
4 20 20.0 100.0
2 10.0 10.0
1 5.0 15.0
7 35.0 50.0
5 25.0 75.0
5 20 25.0 100.0

Table 4.3 Cruise Passenger Motivations
Category Content Frequency Percent
Convenience We live close to port Easy to get to the port 18 26.47
Fine dining Eating and drinking Lots of food 6 8.82
Relaxation All you do is sit around all day Being pampered is relaxing 9 13.24
Entertainment Variety of things to do Nightly shows 4 5.88
Formality Formal dining Broadway shows 2 2.94
Diving My wife wanted to go really bad. She finally convinced me to go but only if I could dive 2 2.94
Snorkeling Excellent snorkeling The best snorkeling 5 7.35
Low cost vacation The cheapest cruise in brochure Cheap, we just drove to the pier 9 13.24
Shopping Shopping with my wife I love to shop 13 19.12

Economic Threshold
The beneficial impacts of Cozumels explosive tourism industry during the 1960s and
1970s seem to have regressed rather quickly into negative effects (Martin and Uysal
1990:327). The very same economic benefit of locally owned restaurants and stores
enjoyed during the exploration and involvement stages seems lost. If the economic
threshold is the ability to absorb tourist functions without squeezing out desirable
local activities (OReilly 1986:256), then Cozumel may have exceeded its economic
carrying capacity.
A major turn of events is the sudden appearance of 20 diamond stores (labeled C in
Figure 1.1) lining the ocean front by the third pier, next to the upcoming shopping
mall. The diamond stores are a reflection of tourism having been transformed from
an activity controlled by independent, local family-owned businesses, into larger big-
money corporate ownerships.
All the diamond stores are owned by U.S. corporations. For example, an interview in
one major diamond store revealed that its main office is located in Boston. This
corporation has 50 stores throughout the Caribbean. The management team in
Cozumel is from Boston with one native Cozumel and one native Mexico City
employee. This pattern of U.S. ownership/management and employees having
migrated from Mexico City was present throughout the diamond stores.
One important economic criterion associated with tourism development is the
concept of leakage. This refers to the amount of economic gain from an activity that
is likely to leave the region where the goods are produced [or sold] (Chambers
2000:33). In the case of Cozumel, these goods are tourism products, such as the
goods sold in the diamond stores. The leakage of the profits from diamond sales is
significant, because the diamond stores are multinational corporations that expect
profit, and that profit... returns to their contries (Chambers 2000:33). For example,
if a cruise visitor spends $1,500 on a diamond necklace in San Miguel, nearly the
entire amount leaks out of the local Cozumel economy, because the store is foreign
owned, managed by foreigners, and staffed by temporary non-locals.
A conversation with an employee from a different diamond store attests to such an
economic leakage. This employee graduated from high school in Mexico City four
months earlier (LOC6). He is only in Cozumel with the intent to make a lot of
jewelry sales, to save money for his university education. He will return to Mexico

City by August 2001. Therefore, neither salaries nor company profits trickle down
into the local economy. Nashs analogy nicely illustrates a diamond stores leakage.
The image that might be kept in mind in considering the
effect of [a diamond store] on the host economy and society
is of a pond that has been disturbed by a stone dropped into
it. In this case, the resulting ripples extend outward through
the various economic services related to tourism. The
consequences, however, are not confined to the economic,
but extend into the remainder of the culture and its
environment as well [Nash 1981:468].
One such ripple effect is the locking in revenues at the expense of independent local
businesses. These diamond stores resemble a virtual monopoly over economic life in
the region. The monopoly has been created through a $500 kick-back system (LOCI).
Under this system, a store pays $500 per ship per day in order to get their store
promoted on the cruise ship. For example, Cozumel averages 6 ships each
Wednesday year round. Under this kick-back system, the store would have to pay
$3,000 each Wednesday just to participate. In a sales pitch onboard the ship, cruise
workers will attempt to direct its passengers to certain stores. Methods of persuasion
include a Cozumel briefing on board the ship, titled Cozumel Travel & Shopping
Talk. The key here is that this briefings travel talk only covers which shops to use.
Another method is the distribution of a shopping map that only marks the location of
the 20 diamond stores. This map makes absolutely sure the passengers wont miss the
promoted stores.
In case the first two methods fail, cruise visitors will eventually stumble across a
whole forest of sidewalk signs like the one in Figure 4.1. LOCI calls the entire kick-
back system a big scam. He does not participate in the program, because he
recognizes that all the money goes back to the cruise line. Therefore, in the eyes of
the cruise ships I dont exist and I never will.

Figure 4.1 Cruise Shopping Promotional Sign
Source: Photograph by Helle Sorensen, January, 2001

The promotion of certain stores can be seen in the diamond store sales people earning
30 percent commission (DOP3). They make more money than doctors. They keep
offering discounts, 10,20,30 percent off and they still receive 30 percent
commission, so you can imagine the profits in these stores. The profit is further
enhanced by the low-risk nature of a diamond store. For example, if a diamond store
is hit by a hurricane, an economic recession, or is driven out of business by the
shopping mall, the store just packs up the jewelry and goes somewhere else, because
the store space is only rented. On the other hand, if a hurricane hits a hotel, it is
devastating, because they own the property.
Riley (1989) points out another important economic leak. The average cruise visitor
does not spend much time in Cozumel, because the visitor is only off the ship for 6-8
hours. A cruise visitor tends not to spend money on restaurants, hotels, and
excursions, because accommodations and meals are provided for onboard the ship.
Also, excursions, such as diving and snorkeling are arranged by the ship often
without local operators. According to DOP2, all catamarans are owned by someone
in Florida. This person moved all catamarans to Cozumel. The owner flies to
Cozumel once a week to pick up money generated by the profits. Thus, it can be
estimated that Cozumel only benefits fractionally (Riley 1989:246) by the cruise
The low multiplier effect, the secondary economic consequences of a certain
touristic input (Nash 1981:467), by cruise visitors can be seen in Table 4.4. Hall and
Braithwaites (1990) analysis of economic leakage shows that cruise ship expenditure
tends to be high on the high-leakage shopping activity. This analysis corresponds
with the observation from Cozumels diamond stores. However, the high cruise
visitor expenditure on sightseeing/tours does not seem to match their analysis. Hall
and Braithwaite estimate the leakage effect of sightseeing/tours to be low. DOP2's
explanation of the foreign owned catamaran business would give Cozumel a high
sightseeing/tours leakage effect.

Table 4.4 Leakage Effects by Cruise Visitors
Leakage Cruise Ship
Effect1 2 Expenditure
Restaurants/catering high low
Retail shops high high
Handicraft shops low high
Recreational facilities low low
Tourist attractions low high
Hotels high low
Guest-houses high low
Condominiums high low
Time sharing high low
Car rental high low
Sightseeing/tours low high
Transfers high low
Buses high low
Air high low
Taxi cabs high high
1A tourists spending at a destination leaks out of the local economy.
2 A cruise ship passengers high or low spending at a destination.
Source: Adopted from Hall, J. Anthony and Ron Braithwaite 1990 Caribbean Cruise Tourism.
Tourism Management. Pp. 343.

Psychological Threshold
OReilly (1986:256) ties the psychological threshold to the tourist behavior that
reveals the value of their experience. For example, how much overcrowding is a
person willing to tolerate before choosing an alternate cruise and dive destination?
Congestion is an important consideration in evaluating Cozumels psychological
carrying capacity, because when an individual user of a recreation area encounters
increasing numbers of other users (Loomis and Walsh 1997:104) a decrease in
demand may occur. However, this threshold is a difficult one to measure as well,
because congestion is based on subjective interpretations (Cheng 1980). Such
intangible changes depend on the perception on the individual user of the area
(Loomis and Walsh 1997) and personality, motivation, and values (Cheng
In evaluating the psychological threshold, the number of cruise ships and the number
of cruise visitors are compared. It is evident from the Paradise Reef issue that
carrying capacity is a perplexing concept. The idea argues that only a certain
number of tourists can be contained in a certain destination area (OReilly
1986:254). The psychological threshold is extremely difficult to measure, because the
challenge is to determine at what level tourists are too many. In other words, the level
at which there are too many tourists depends on the perception of local population
and individual visitors to Cozumel.
Figure 4.2 clearly shows that Wednesday is the day in the week with too many ships.
On Wednesdays, seven cruise ships dock in Cozumel during the high season period
between November and April. During the low season period between May and
October, five ships use Cozumel as a port. For six months, there are at least seven
ships docked in Cozumel. With three piers accommodating two ships each, it is
evident that at least one ship drops anchor off the piers. Even with a third pier
completed in the summer of2000, exceeding its capacity occurs only six months
after completion of the third pier. Additionally, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays,
the piers are filled to near capacity.

Figure 4.2 Number of Cruise Ships
| Nov-Apr
| May-Oct
1. Carnival Cruise Lines 2000-2002. 3 to 17 Day Cruise Vacation Brochure
2. Celebrity Cruises. January 2000 April 2001 Caribbean Brochure.
3. Costa Cruises. 1999-2000 Caribbean Brochure.
4. Crystal Cruises. 2001 Cruise Atlas Brochure
5. Princess Caribbean. Summer 2001-Winter/Spring 2002 Caribbean Brochure.
6. Norwegian Cruise Line. January 2000 April 2001 Caribbean & Bermuda Brochure.
7. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. 2000-2001 Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda Brochure.

Heavy use of cruise ship piers translates into an over-crowded San Miguel. Figure
4.3 shows that, each Wednesday all year round, San Miguel gets invaded by about
12,000 cruise ship visitors. As Table 4.3 indicates, less than ten percent of cruise
passengers are interested in diving and snorkeling and the vast majority end up
shopping in San Miguel. Cozumel receives 30,260 cruise passengers in an average
week. Since Cozumel averages 121,040 passengers in one month, or 1.6 million in a
year, it is easy to understand TOUl's observation that:
I cant stand to be downtown. Its so crowded. You cant
walk. They bump you. Theyre stepping on you. You cant
walk comfortably. Its just too crowded down there. And
there is a lot more of aggressive salesmen. They almost
grab you and try to sell you something. Ive never faced
that before. Not here.
Figure 4.2 reveals that Cozumel receives cruise ships every day all year round, except
Sunday. With an enormous increase in ship capacity of 2,000 3,000 passengers per
ship, Cozumel receives very little relief from the crowds in San Miguel. The problem
with crowding is exacerbated by San Miguels narrow cobble stoned sidewalks that
are filled with sales signs so that movement is reduced to a barely detectable pace
(Cheng 1980:77). And it is not going unnoticed among tourists, as TOU1 expresses:
Where are you going to walk? Its not big enough to
accommodate that many people. There just didnt used to
be as many people around. They didnt have a stop light a
year and a half ago. They certainly didnt have an oriental
rug store. There was no need for it, and I dont know that
there is now. I dont understand how there are even eight
ships in here with all those passengers.
The impacts of the Wednesday cruise crowds on the Cozumel community can also be
seen from a different perspective. The advantage of the crowds might be that the
cruise visitors arrive Cozumel at roughly the same time between 7:00 am and 10:00
am. They arrive in the same cruise ship pier area. In a few hours, the cruise visitors
have gone shopping in a few stores and then return to their ships. In other words,
there is minimal interaction between locals and visitors on Wednesdays. Not only are
the locals left in peace, but they also know to avoid the pier area on Wednesdays.

number of passengers
Figure 4.3 Number of Cruise Passengers
Q Nov-Apr
| | May-Oct
1. Carnival Cruise Lines. 2000-2002. 3 to 17 Day Cruise Vacation Brochure
2. Celebrity Cruises. January 2000 April 2001 Caribbean Brochure.
3. Costa Cruises. 1999-2000 Caribbean Brochure.
4. Crystal Cruises. 2001 Cruise Atlas Brochure
5. Princess Caribbean. Summer 2001-Winter/Spring 2002 Caribbean Brochure
6. Norwegian Cruise Line. January 2000 April 2001 Caribbean & Bermuda Brochure
7. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. 2000-2001 Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda Brochure.

One could ask why capacity is allowed to be exceeded on Wednesday and why the
arrival of ships is not spread out more evenly throughout the week, for example on a
no-use Sunday. One challenge is that the vast majority of cruises depart U.S. ports on
Saturdays. A typical cruise itinerary leaves Miami Saturday afternoon. The ship
docks in Jamaica or Cayman Islands on Tuesday, arriving at Cozumel by Wednesday
Another challenge is the ever larger ships and the limited number of viable cruising
areas for these larger ships (EIU 1995:4). The greatest dilemma with big ships is
their requirement of deep water ports. For example, there is no close port to Cozumel
that could be used as an alternative. Even though Cancun is only a one hour sailing
distance away, Cancuns shallow water disables Cancun to be developed as an
overflow cruise destination. Hence, the area of operation in the Caribbean Sea is
fairly limited.
The point here is that Mexico attracted visitors to an already mature market by
building more piers in order to cram more people into the same place to create more
revenue (Plog 1998:264). This is evident in Butlers notion that the resort image
becomes divorced from its geographic environment (1980:8) during the stagnation
stage. This divorce is indicated by the construction of two cruise ship piers since
1997, resulting in the type of traveler having changed to Plogs psychocentric.
Cozumels divorce from its geographic environment is exactly what the
psychocentric traveler prefers (Plog 1974). These travelers adapt less well and tend
to seek experiences that will keep them close in touch with the kinds of Western
amenities to which they are accustomed (Chambers 2000:21). Therefore, this
traveler prefers a familiar atmosphere. Therefore, the Internet Cafe, Planet
Hollywood, and Hard Rock Cafe are welcomed by the psychocentrics. The most
startling evidence that Cozumel has changed their travel product to meet the demand
of the psychocentrics is that the Casa Denis restaurant from the 1960s has changed its
name to Casa Dennys (May 1997). According to Plog, this type of traveler is also
attracted to a low activity level. The cruise product certainly meets that expectation,
since the majority of cruise visitors end up as shoppers, a low level activity that just
about any person can participate in.
The original treasure hunting dive product has been overtaken by a mass-market
cruise item (Onkvisit and Shaw 1989). Cozumel has cast off its diving only
reputation and is attracting more mainstream visitors. There is a real danger that
Cozumel may be turned into a Disney-like or a Love Boat style travel product,
because in order to remain stable, many firms attempt to change their product style

(Onkvisit and Shaw 1989). The real danger, however, is DIV4's comment that its
like rush hour eveiy day on the reefs. Lots of boats everywhere. Go somewhere else if
you want a peaceful quiet trip.
Post-Stagnation Stage
Even though the idea of setting limits on the number of people allowed to visit
Cozumel would be unpopular with cruise lines, dive operators, local businesses and
the Mexican government, it is an important reality check. Economic studies of
congestion show that serving the most people would eventually push benefits to zero
(Loomis and Walsh 1997:106). The main issues of congestion and over-saturation
may eventually lead to the decline pattern as described by Butler, unless developers,
visitors, and locals understand what is really going on, and that may take many
The question remains whether Cozumel can avoid going into decline, a phase defined
by Butler as being unable to compete with newer attractions (1980:9). A traveler
might be drawn towards more upscale and less crowded destinations, such as Cancun.
According to Plog (1998), it is very difficult to reverse the decline once it has begun,
because the physical, social, economic, as well as psychological carrying capacities
of the area have been exceeded, creating changes in supply and demand. Butler
therefore contends that if it [the destination] is accessible to large numbers of
people (Butler 1980:9), the area may be used primarily for short vacation stays. In
the case of Cozumel, this trend is apparent in its increase in cruise ships with brief
half-day stops.
If Cozumel is considered to be accessible to too many people, the island can go into
decline as abruptly as its rise (Greenwood 1972:88). The challenge of tourism is its
fashion-type nature because the search for the new and different plays a major role
(Greenwood 1972:88). The oversaturation of cruise visitors demonstrates that
Cozumel as a destination is still attractive as a relatively new and different stopping
point. DOP2 speculates that it may be a short lived reputation as an attractive
destination because
According to the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico, the
people that come here off of a cruise ship have to start
paying somewhat of a departure tax. I read that it will be

something like $3 per person. And with that starting to
happen, people will start going away. It is the same thing
that happened when we started charging $2 to enter the
national park. The area has been open for a long time and
we never charged anyone until it became a national park.
Then the government told the operators to charge $2 each
time a diver or a snorkeler wanted to go swim and dive
within the national park per day. So that means that five
days of diving is $10 per person. And people were very
surprised that they were actually charging that much. And
some of the people wondered why. According to the
association the money was going to go to research and
protection of the reef. Something they dont protect and I
have no idea what kind of research they are doing.
Cozumel needs to be careful not to exceed its various carrying capacities, because
there are more people competing for less and less resources (Butler 1980). The
negative effects of tourism could begin to outweigh the benefits. The coral reefs as a
main attraction could lose their appeal because of over-crowding, over-
commercialization, and over-use of resources. Cozumels over-commercialization is
evident from TOU3's remark: I think Cozumels days as a premier dive destination
with few crowds and an undiscovered charm are over. For me, the fact that a Hard
Rock Cafe and a Planet Hollywood are on Cozumel indicates an end to an era. The
diving still is great, but the crowds... oh boy. TOU4 has also determined that
Cozumel is dying as a dive destination: [ ] hotel is an excellent place to stay if you
want to learn more about the impact of the cruise ships. I believe some people have
already given up on Cozumel as a dive destination and will no longer be contributing
to San Miguels economy.
The over-development is especially evident from the hotel referred to above, because
this hotel (labeled D in Figure 1.1) is located by first pier. The photograph in Figure
4.4 reveals that the most unappealing thing about [ ] hotel is that it is next to the
monstrous dock where the monstrous cruise ships dock (TOU4). This photograph is
taken from the beach in front of this particular hotel on a Wednesday at 1:00 pm in
December, 2000. Several things are very striking in this photograph.

Figure 4.4 Cruise Ship Piers
Source: Photograph by Helle Sorensen. January, 2001.
The picture is surrealistic in character. The ships do seem monstrous in size
because they are the tallest structures on the island. It is also striking to note the
congestion. The two piers are located in close proximity. The white ship is docked at
pier 2, with a smaller ship behind it. The two black-and-white ships are docked at
pier 1. Equally striking is the ships closeness to shore. Docking only a few 100 feet
from the coast line reveal their interference with the coral reef ecosystem. The ships
and the piers straddle the dark colored areas in the water. These dark areas are coral
reefs. The photograph also reveals the roped off area for snorkelers. Snorkelers are
allowed in the small area between the coastline and the yellow rope, a snorkeling
experience with towering cruise ships as a backdrop.
The major problem is to determine how many tourists are too many tourists. The fact
remains, though, that Cozumel receives many cruise visitors that are mostly
ecologically and environmentally unaware. One solution may be to limit the number

of visitors by making Cozumel unaffordable to the average mass-tourist. Providing
the highest quality experience to each individual would limit participation to fewer
users then would provide the greatest benefit in total (Loomis and Walsh 1997:106).
In other words, by raising the costs, the same money would be received but from
fewer visitors. The limited few who can afford it are more educated and ecologically
aware, and thereby the quality of the visitor is increased. We are as vulnerable as the
forest ecosystem. No one can prosper if too many people draw on too limited
resources. Our planet is alive and survives because the life support system functions
to balance and maintain a habitable environment. Everything is connected.
Cozumel may avoid decline by renewing its image as a travel destination, as
illustrated by curve A in Figure 1.2. However, Butler is not optimistic, because he
contends it is not possible to revitalize without a complete change in the attractions
on which tourism is based (Butler 1980:9). Several destinations have managed such
a rebirth. One example of a complete change in tourism product is the Central
City/Black Hawk area in the earlyl990s after the introduction of gambling. A
destination may also renew itself without such drastic measures. For example,
Cozumel could take advantage of its Mayan heritage by highlighting its cultural
resources (Butler 1980).
If development slows down dramatically in order to protect the coral reef resource
(Butler 1980), Cozumel may remain above the stagnation level in curve B in Figure
1.2. Butler (1980) predicts that if Cozumel would manage to maintain all capacity
levels, the island would enjoy a stable amount of visitors (curve C). However,
continued misuse of Paradise Reef, as shown by curve D, will result in decline.
DOP2, however, predicts a rejuvenation of visitors: I think that in about five or ten
years we are going to have a lot of people who retire and come to the island, because
they are buying houses. And now we are going to have golf courses on the island,
something that we never thought we were going to have.

In the early 1960s, visitors came to Cozumel in small numbers because of
underdeveloped infrastructure, no specific tourist facilities, and a rustic atmosphere
(Coltman 1989). As Cozumel intensified advertisement and provided facilities, the
area progressed into the development stage. This stage reflects development of year-
round facilities and activities. As Cozumel emerged as a well-defined tourist market
area, local involvement and control weakened, as outside organizations took over
(Butler 1980:8). Cozumel seems to have been successful in developing a popular
tourism product.
Plog (as cited by Butler 1980:6) warns, however, that the average tourist market will
reduce in size as the area has to compete with others. Cozumel has attempted to
avoid such a reduction by adopting the latest tourism fashion: increasing its cruise
ship capacity. The fear of a dull sameness, a McDonaldization, of Cozumel may
fuel the counter-argument that the most effective competition strategy is trying not to
simulate the average product (Chambers 2000:19). It is important not to lose the
spirit of a unique dive or cruise destination and dare stand away from other vacation
experiences. Cozumel can reach that goal, because it offers unique outdoor activities
combined with sun, sand, and shopping.
Butlers model suggests that the attitude of tourism planners needs to change, while
Plog suggests an attitude change for travelers in order to avoid the trap of simulation.
Spectacular reef diving in an undeveloped setting was Cozumels original draw. But,
the coral reefs as an attraction must be understood and respected as a fragile and
finite resource. Only then is careful conservation possible. This study has shown an
urgency for determining capacity limits that must be established through
conscientious planning and management. Unless limits for numbers of tourist are set,
Plogs statement that a majority of some of the most attractive and interesting areas
in the world are doomed to become relics (Plog 1974:58) may be the declining
future of Cozumel.
It is important to understand the life cycle model, the carrying capacity concept, and
where Cozumel fits into this picture. This knowledge can be used to develop tourism
planning strategies towards an appropriate level of development (Tooman 1997:929).
Only through life cycle position determination and utilization of an optimal carrying

capacity can the future of a destination area be controlled (Martin and Uysal
1990:330). Since the pattern of tourism development displayed by Cozumel to date
largely conforms to the life cycle proposed by Butler, Cozumels tourism cycle of
growth is a helpful model in sustainable development of resources. For example,
Cozumels physical modification of a coral ecosystem, the emergence of a well-
defined target market, and an economy tied to tourism give evidence for its
conformity of the model.
Cozumel was once highly popular with the allocentric treasure hunting divers but is
in danger of self-destructing in the future (Plog 1998). Planners and developers can
use the model to further avoid exceeding the maximum beneficial size. As Cozumel
becomes more commercialized, it may lose its ability to captivate visitors. The
authentic character that attracted the visitors in the first place is being challenged
with modem excessive commercial development (OReilly 1986). It was already
recognized in the 1970s that an imitation-American culture of commerce has
covered the landscape. Travel is destroying one of the most exciting reasons for
traveling: to discover the dazzling depth and width of human experience and human
going-ons (Koning 1974:8).
In Cozumel, cause and effects of change by tourism are challenging to pin-point,
because cruise and dive developments have occurred at different rates, different
reasons, and for different target markets (Cheng 1980:73). The relationship between
the physical and socio-cultural environments is highly interdependent and complex.
Exceptional diving, fabulous shopping, and a splendid climate provided an alluring
environment. With the influx of visitors, the island community has also grown at an
unprecedented rate. Since Cozumels growth is centered around the cruise and dive
products, it is clear that the economy was quickly dominated by direct employment in
the tourism industry. However, indirect employment related to tourism, such as real
estate, also contributed to its booming economy.
It should be recognized that if the tourism industry of Cozumel is to continue to
flourish, it must develop in a sustainable way. The basic seed com of Cozumel's
tourism industry is the stunning natural environmental quality of the destination. The
protection of this environment should be in the interest of both business, visitor, and
local government, so that coral reef conservation and tourism development can be
blended into one effort. The major decision is whether to conserve Paradise Reef for
future generations or to further develop the coastal zone for the cruiser of today, thus
possibly destroying it for all time. A return to basics, perhaps focusing more on the
slower and simpler times, such as the quaint Casa Denis restaurant, may serve to
attract the less frenetic tourist. Continuing in the fast-paced and commercial mode of
present-day Cozumel, the island is unlikely to stabilize, and may face decline.

Other tourist activities could be developed that would lessen the impact on the reef.
An eco-friendly golf course, with its own desalination plant, could be one such
consideration. Another popular tourist activity, especially for the cruise ship
passengers with limited time, is glass-bottom boats, which have minimal effect on the
reef Also, sport fishing on the opposite side of the island would serve to divert
tourists from the heavily used and fragile reef side.
Sustainable development of Cozumels coral reefs is a concept that sounds good.
However, sustainable development is too often coupled with an attitude that says: "I
want cleaner air, but I don't want to give up my car." Sustainability, then, is a life
style. The key is to find a way to redefine values so that the current behavior of
literally "loving nature to death" can be changed (Cousteau 1993). If divers do not
learn to manage their love of the underwater world, it will soon be necessary to wait
in line to dive and perhaps to even be in the area at all (Cousteau 1993). Every place
has a limit. Any forest, beach, or reef can sustain only so many people.
Sustainability is about limits. Cozumel is a classic example of never being satisfied:
Cozumel wanted more piers. The problem is: the more piers Cozumel has, the more
they will be used, and the more then that will be needed. This is already happening.
When there is no room at any of the three piers, ships drop anchor off the piers and
bring its passengers to shore in smaller vessels. The importance of balancing
economic growth with the natural resource continues to be ignored. If limits are not
set, visitors will come in such high numbers that they destroy what they came to
experience in the first place (Martin and Uysal 1990:328).
Sustainability through Education
It is important to bear in mind that people and their social systems are an integral part
of nature. Therefore, it is only possible to sustain ecosystems if the project benefits
the local population. Respect for the physical environment of Paradise Reefs
ecosystem must not exclude appreciation for the socio-cultural environment (Gow
1995, Cheng 1980). Lele (1991) asserts that ecological sustainability refers to the
limits and opportunities that nature places on human activities. This definition
should [also] mean that the local population does not degrade its natural resource
base, at least not irretrievably, but rather conserves or even improves it
(Gowl995:48). To resolve the development-environment dilemma, we must
incorporate diverse cultural perspectives into our thinking, while keeping the
ecosphere as an essential point of reference (Puntenney 1995:4). This is important,
because environment and development are interdependent concepts.

Because of opposing interests and goals, Barbier (1987:102) defines social
sustainability as the ability to maintain desired social values, traditions, institutions,
cultures, or other social characteristics (Barbier 1987:102). Social sustainability may
only be achieved through public and local involvement in educational programs that
ensure a heightened awareness and knowledge. Thus, a combination of, and
cooperation between, the top-down and bottom-up development approaches is
needed for effectiveness. An approach that is not based on abstract goals of
development... but based on visits to villages and interviews with affected people,
who must come first throughout the project cycle (Kottak 1990:729). Barbier further
believes that any attempt to reduce environmental degradation will be counter-
productive if there is failure to respect the needs and encourage the participation of
those social groups which are most affected by change (Barbier 1987:103).
The Cozumel native owner of the black coral store has made it very clear that
cooperating with the development project of the cruise lines would require major
changes in their daily lives (Kottak 1990:724) and that, in the end, only the cruise
lines would benefit. For example, cooperating with the cruise lines means a
mandatory participation in their kick-back system, a system that is arranged and
regulated by the cruise lines. This shows that thinking globally is not as easy as it
sounds, since the Cozumel natives are not allowed to even act at their own local
Therefore, it is important to reconnect the global and the local ideas of what is to be
developed, how it is to be developed, and for whom. The role of the Mexican
government must not be ignored when wishing to develop a sustainable tourism
product and a sustainable tourism destination. This paper has shown how the
Mexican government has used its supreme power over all the resources of the
continental shelf and sea bottom around the islands (Merino 1987:35) to exercise
control over the local population and coastal developments and coastal resources.
Such power and elitism comes from the governments isolation from Cozumel island
that create insensitivity to local conditions (Kottak 1990)
This supremacy has been expressed as an inability to predict difficulties before they
arise so that something can be done about emerging problems (Plog 1991:82). This
inability has led to a grand place ... [losing] favor as it attracts a lower quality
audience (Plog 1991:83). The loss of grandness is partly due to inefficient and
inadequate conservation and protection of Cozumels coral reef natural environment.
This trend is apparent when examining how Plog originally placed destinations on a
psychographic spectrum in 1972. Figure 5.1 shows Mexicos position in the upper
midcentric category in 1972. When comparing with Figure 1.3, the movement of

Figure 5.1 Psychographic Positions Of Destinations, 1972
Source: Reprinted by permission Stanley C. Plog, Ph D
Mexico towards a lower midcentric destination by 1991, in less than 20 years, is
striking. Today, ten years later, Mexico (and especially Cozumel), is likely to have
moved further towards the psychocentrics.
The most important part of sustainability is to incorporate education at all socio-
economic levels into the planning process of developing Cozumel. Not until then is
co-management of Cozumel possible. Co-management is a user-group-centered
approach, but without neglecting or compromising the states role in resource
management (Sandersen and Koester 2000:87). Co-management gives incentives to
take control of the island instead of having the government take complete control.
DOP2's comment about the Punta Sur area is important to bear in mind, because it
represents complete government control. This area used to be open to the public and
the local people. It used to be taken care of by a family. Now the government has put

up gates, built gift shops, and enforced a $7 entrance fee. The point here is that Punta
Sur used to be taken care of by the locals for public use until the government took
over by putting up gates.
Hence, education at the government level is extremely urgent. It is crucial to extend
the current coastal protections 20 meter zone to at least 40 meters. Even though
private property owners and other economic activities adjacent to the zone are
fighting such a widening (Merino 1987), it is important to bear in mind that Paradise
Reef used to extend much farther. The first pier was built off the northern tip of the
reef, and as a likely result, the coral below it died (TED case studies 2001). DOP2's
comment that people in Mexico City dont know anything about the way our
underwater environment works demonstrates the need for ecological education in
order to convince them to widen the coastal zone. The importance behind this
education is to avoid tourism ending up killing the veiy thing that attracted them in
the first place (Butler 1980).
Education at this level does present some challenges, because Paradise Reef is an
extraordinary case of supreme federal power over coastal development and control
over coastal resources. Even though Paradise Reef was under federal protection as
part of its National Marine Park, Mexico's National Institute of Ecology issued a
construction permit to Consorcio H in late 1994, insisting that the project is in
accordance with our environmental laws (Nusser 1996:2). The fact that the reef was
first claimed dead, then justified the pier on the grounds of increased tourist interest
in visiting the dead attraction (Cousteau 1996:2) raises some questions. Is it
possible to tell the powerful Mexican government, whose primary driving force is
economic gain, to take care of their environment? Is it the goal of environmentalists
and ecologists to preserve Paradise Reef to benefit their own diving experiences? Is it
realistic to expect Mexico to do their part when they are in such dire need of jobs and
income? Is it possible for Mexico to shift from a top-down management style to one
that [is] inclusive and based on input from groups they [are] accustomed to
regulating? (Sanderson and Koester 2000:93).
The top-down development approach by the Mexican government is emphasized by
the pattern of U.S. ownership/management and employees having migrated from
Mexico City to Cozumel. This monopoly over economic life in Cozumel could be
minimized by hiring local employees only. The benefit of local employees is two-
fold: a decrease in economic leakage and an increase in local empowerment (Gow
1995, Escobar 1990). Social self-determination would mean taking the initiative to
gain more control over decision making (Gow 1995). Local involvement enhances
their opportunity to regain control over their own affairs (Gow 1995:49). This
control would include the elimination of the seemingly voluntary kick-back system

from cruise lines, the restoration of free access to its own public beaches, and the
incorporation of local knowledge and values into decision making processes in order
to minimize social disruption. DOP3 has recognized the importance and urgency
behind increasing the awareness of dive operators:
Its the numbers that matter, its education. You can have ten
divers in the same area, but if one touches a coral, then one is too
many. You can have 50 divers, but if one touches coral then one is
still too many. So how do you determine when you have too many
Perhaps one way to determine the threshold of divers is to completely eliminate the
snuba program that takes uncertified people on a 45 minute scuba diving venture.
Whether it is fashion or not, inexperienced and untrained individuals underwater pose
not only a danger to their own safety but also a danger to the health of the coral reef
and its marine life.
Therefore, divers need to also gain knowledge, because much damage to the
underwater world is caused by the carelessness of divers. Local knowledge should be
harnessed as a resource for development (Kottak 1990:727). Damage from divers
include touching the coral and swimming through schools of fish. DOP2 recognizes
this need:
What the diving community is trying to do now is to
educate the divers. There is nobody, not even the
Association of the national park that can do anything about
it. We have to do it as divers. They arent patrolling these
areas. They arent making sure that no one is kicking the
formations or that no one is taking things out of the water.
We as a diving community, the dive masters on the boat
and in the water every single day, have to watch the
customers in the water.
Divers are not alone in their naivety. Cultural ignorance seems to be the underlying
issue with many foreign travelers. Geographic isolation of the U.S. (and often
American ethnocentrism) surfaces in our lack of knowledge and/or understanding of
the cultural baggage brought by the visitor (Smith 1992:3). The danger in such a
statement is that geographic isolation, and hence geographic and/or cultural
ignorance, is often expressed as an excuse for not learning a foreign language, not
gaming a genuine interest in the host destination, and not having a desire for the local

cuisine. In other words, ignorance justifies the psychocentric type of traveler as one
that cannot live without the familiar surroundings of home. But not all is to be
blamed on the foreign visitors to Cozumel. It is equally important to provide
education to the citizens of Cozumel. DOP3 recognizes this need:
But its not enough to have just educated divers and dive
instructors. You must have that same education in the
households and in the schools. And thats not taking place.
Private school is an example. We have lots of wealthy
Mexican families on the island. Their children are raised
with the attitude that the world is there to serve them. They
leave trash everywhere, because they are used to servants
picking it up for them. Their attitude is, if servants dont
pick it up, theyll pay someone to pick it up.
Sustainable Tourism Model
It is important to recognize that our local and global mindset shapes our values,
lifestyles, and practices, influencing all that we do no matter how we enhance the
efficacy of our institutions or how we restructure legal and moral decision making
(Puntenney 1995:4). Without changing our lifestyles and values, we will continue to
rely on short-term technological quick-fixes rather than focusing on the
interconnectedness between environmental, socio-cultural, and economic variables.
It will take a sharing of resources and cooperation between the international and local
communities to obtain sustainable solutions (Puntenney 1995) to the Paradise Reef
issue. For example, damage to Paradise Reef presents a great challenge in that cause
and effect are at a transboundary and international level. Another challenge lies in the
fact that the interest and goal of developers competes with that of the locals.
Mexico needs to consciously control or restrict tourism in order to preserve its
economic and cultural integrity (Smith 1989:14). It is time for Cozumel to follow
Bhutans successful tourism model. This tiny land-locked kingdom in the Himalayas
opened its borders to tourism in 1974, permitting only one thousand visitors per
year (Smith 1989:14-15), denying entry to individual back-pack travelers, allowing
group travel only, and charging about $400 for a tourist visa. A 1986 study by the
World Tourism Organization (WTO) praised the system and encouraged its
continuance with little change (Smith 1989). Bhutan certainly did so.

The Royal Government of Bhutan adheres strongly to a policy of low volume and
high value tourism (Tourism Authority of Bhutan 1999). The Royal Government has
recognized the potential problems associated with tourism which, if not controlled,
can have devastating and irreversible impact on their environment and culture. The
Royal Government also acknowledges the fact that the resources on which tourism is
based are limited. Therefore, the tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the
principle of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally friendly
and socio-culturally acceptable. The number of tourists visiting Bhutan is regulated to
a manageable level because of the lack of infrastructure. Development projects are
carried out in five-year plan periods (Doiji 2000). The Royal Government holds the
preservation of Bhutanese tradition and culture and the conservation of its natural
environment as something that cannot be compromised while making plans for
economic development.
At the same time, the Royal Government understands that tourism can help promote
understanding among people and build closer ties of friendship based on appreciation
and respect for different cultures and lifestyles {Tourism Authority of Bhutan 1999).
Towards achieving this objective, Bhutan has adopted a very cautious approach to
growth and development of the tourism industry. The number of tourists has been
maintained at a manageable level and this control on number is exercised through a
policy of government regulated tourist tariff and a set of administrative requirements.
For example, visitors must book their passage through one of the 33 registered tour
operators in Bhutan {Tourism Authority of Bhutan 1999). The minimum daily tariff is
set by the Tourism Authority of Bhutan as US$200.00 per person per day and can not
be negotiated. This rate includes hotel accommodations, food, ground transportation,
an English speaking guide, trekking equipment, a cook, and pack animals (Doiji
Bhutan has long understood that for all of the possible benefits,... tourism can get
out of control if not managed properly, and it can incur many ecological and
sociological costs.... Tourism development presents a special phenomenon which, if
too successful, can destroy the very natural, social, and economic resources it was
meant to protect (Long 1992:15). Cozumel needs to bear Longs comment in mind
while taking control of its tourism industry. Taking control means limiting the
numbers by increasing and maintaining high tourist prices. By raising the costs, the
same money would be received but from fewer visitors. The limited few who can
afford it are more educated and ecologically aware, and thereby the quality of the
visitor is increased. Providing the highest quality experience to each individual
would limit participation to fewer users then would provide the greatest benefit in
total (Loomis and Walsh 1997:106).

If an allocentric traveler is willing to pay at least $200 per day in Bhutan, then there
is no reason Cozumel could not attract the allocentrics also. After all, Cozumels
tourism life cycle began with the allocentric divers. Cozumels first step is to refocus
its attention to the dive business. If Cozumel follows Bhutans tourism model,
Cozumel would require its dive operators to be registered and comply with the rules
set forth by Cozumel. Divers would need to book their trip through one of these
registered dive operators. One such rule is a daily fee of $25 per person for entering
the Marine Park. Another rule is a complete ban of cattle boats. Instead, boat capacity
of a maximum of six people is maintained. The second step is limiting the number of
cruise ships by tripling the cruise ship docking fee.
It could be argued that sustainable tourism is a luxury of the affluent. The concept of
sustainable tourism can therefore be criticized to be an activity for the elite. On the
other hand, what good does the cruise business provide Cozumel when this paper has
shown that Cozumel does not benefit much from the cruise business? Wealthy
tourists obviously have more money to spend, and therefore [Cozumel] needs to draw
fewer visitors, reducing the possibly negative effects of having too many tourists
hanging around (Chambers 2000:37).
To counteract the elitism reaction simply look again to the Bhutan model. Bhutan is
an expensive destination because of the fees imposed by the government, not because
the locals are gouging the tourists. If Cozumel cruises were more expensive, fewer
cruise ships would come. If the Mexican government added healthy activity fees,
the diver numbers would stabilize, and the destructive novice divers would be
discouraged. The higher cost of a Cozumel vacation would be blamed on the cruise
ship lines and the government, not on the locals or dive operators, and the goal of
fewer numbers bringing equal dollars would be met.
It is important to remember that most tourism activity only takes place within a
narrow zone along the west coast of Cozumel. Concentrating tourists in this strip
minimizes contact between tourists and the local population. However, the drawback
is that affluent travelers require the provision of goods and services that are
unlikely to be locally available, increasing the leakage effect (Chambers 2000:38).
It is time to accept that we are as vulnerable as the coral reef (Cousteau 1993). No
one can prosper if too many people draw on too limited resources. Our planet is alive
and survives because the life support system functions to balance and maintain a
habitable environment (Cousteau 1993). Everything is connected (Cousteau 1993).

Tourist Perspectives on Cruising
I am conducting a study of tourist perceptions and preferences related to the cruise
experience and Cozumel as a destination. This questionnaire is part of a graduate study
conducted by Helle Sorensen from the Department of Anthropology, University of
Colorado at Denver.
Participation in this study is voluntary. You do not have to participate in this survey if
you dont want to. You may stop at any time, or leave individual questions unanswered.
Completion of the questionnaire represents authorization for its use for study purposes.
No names will be used. Only survey staff will see your answers.
Your answers to this questionnaire will provide the information needed in this study.
Your assistance is very critical to the success of the study and much appreciated. I hope
you enjoy being a part of the study. The questionnaire will take only a few minutes to
Thank you very much for your time and your help.

1. Is this your first cruise?
Yes - go to # 3
2. How many times have you cruised in the last 5 years?
0-1 times
2-4 times
5-8 times
More than 8 times
3. Have you been to Cozumel before?
4. Where have you cruised before?
5. Where do you want to cruise next?

Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with each of the statements presented
below by circling the number (1-5) that best indicates your answer choice.
A cruise experience is
Strongly Neither agree Strongly
Disagree Disagree nor disagree Agree agree
Fun 1 2 3 4 5
Romantic 1 2 3 4 5
Stress free 1 2 3 4 5
Educational 1 2 3 4 5
Entertaining 1 2 3 4 5
Relaxing 1 2 3 4 5
Expensive 1 2 3 4 5
Adventurous 1 2 3 4 5
Boring 1 2 3 4 5
Exciting 1 2 3 4 5
Full of surprises 1 2 3 4 5
Physically demanding 1 2 3 4 5
Disappointing 1 2 3 4 5

Please indicate how important each of these reasons for taking a cruise is to you by
circling the number (1-5) that best indicates your answer choice.
Very Somewhat Somewhat Not
important important Important unimportant important
Excellent accommodations 1
Fine dining 1
Opportunity to meet people 1
Time spent in port 1
Escorted shore excursions 1
Specific activity in port 1
Broadening cultural horizon 1
Specific activity on the ship 1
Educational lectures/seminars 1
Pampered by staff 1
Good value for money 1
Increased environmental awareness 1
Pack/unpack only once 1
Opportunity to learn 1
Wide range of entertainment 1
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5
2 3 4 5

Please check the ship activities you have engaged in or intend to engage in.
Aerobics Lecture
Barber shop Library
Beauty salon Massage
Bingo Reading
Briefing on Cancun Sauna
Briefing on Cozumel Shopping
Captains cocktail party Sing-along piano bar
Captains gala dinner Singles cocktail party
Casino Spa
Dancing Stroll along the deck
Deck games Sunbathing
Exercise class Swimming
Hot tub Welcome aboard party
Jogging Other

9. What is your age category?
less than 20 years old
80 and over
10. Are you male or female?
11 Which of the following best describes you?
Asian/Pacific Islander
African American
. American Indian/Alaskan Native
12. Please indicate your marital status
Divorced or separated
13. Which state or country are you from?

14. What do you like the most about cruising?
15. What are some of the reasons you chose Cozumel/Cancun as your cruising
16. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Cozumels tourism future?
17. How did you or will you spend your time in Cozumel?

How has Cozumel changed during the last 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?
In what ways do the cruise ship piers influence life in Cozumel?
What are the good things about the growth of tourism in Cozumel?
What are the risks for Cozumel that come with the growth of tourism?
How has your views about the cruise and dive industry changed since the pier
How do you see the future of tourism in Cozumel?
What motivated you to open a shop in Cozumel?
How did you decide to work in the dive industry?
How long have you owned this shop?

Code Code Explanation Code Content
DIV1 Diver American male diver
DOP1 Dive operator American owned dive operator
DOP2 Dive operator Mayan Cozumel native dive operator
DOP3 Dive operator Dive operator, Mexico City
LOCI Local resident Owner, jewelry store
LOC2 Local resident European store manager
LOC3 Local resident Mexican security guard, Naval Air Base
LOC4 Local resident Silver store manager, Mexico City
LOC5 Local resident Diamond store employee, Mexico City
LOC6 Local resident Diamond store manager, Czech Rep.
LOC7 Local resident Diamond store employee, Mexico City
LOC8 Local resident Diamond store employee, Cozumel
TAXI Taxi driver From Mexico City
TOPI Tour operator Cozumel native
TOU1 Tourist American female

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1996 The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography. 2nd ed.
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1989 The Resort Cycle Revisited: Implications for Resorts. In Progress in
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