Tourism Sustainability – Let’s measure so that we can manage. (Published 10 August 2021 in LinkedIn)

I have just completed an update to my book again investigating the increase in rooms and the social and environmental cost of this additional activity. The results here in northern Quintana Roo just in 5 years are shocking: an almost 100% increase in rooms and almost exclusively all-inclusive. Despite the pandemic, investors are pushing to build more rooms. But fiscal revenue is not proportional to construction because properties will fight for the same clients. However, ecosystem destruction is proportional to construction.
Biosystem economic valuation combined with fiscal revenues from tourism provides a cost-benefit analysis for tourism policy decision-making. We estimate the tax collection (lodging taxes, payroll taxes, airport fees) from the additional construction of NEW clients because adding rooms does not automatically increase that number of tourists.
To determine the limits, we calculate where damage to ecosystem processes outweigh fiscal revenues. Unfortunately, very few in tourism academia have a background in economics and even fewer in taxation. That is why we keep pushing the limits, touting the whole time about being sustainable when few are trained to find and hold these lines.  
My hypothesis is still that the ease of tax avoidance coupled with corruption makes Mexico a target of international groups. Return on investment is about 5 years, just one-third of the time necessary for normal investment returns. And although corruption is a bigger problem in emerging economies than in developed ones (euphemistically referred to as ‘institutional weakness’), it is not only a problem there. The son of the top beneficial owner and chairman of RIU, Carmen Riu, was thrown in jail for bribery in Miami. See
As you can see in this Miami Herald article, in developed economies bribery comes in the form of in-kind gifts, whereas in emerging economies international investors hand out money for politicians to look the other way as they build more properties on fragile coastlines where ecosystem services are extremely valuable, as much as U$ 100,000 per hectare per year for dunes and beaches. The one commonality – tourism destinations attract greed and corruption irrespective of the level of development, and in the process destroy fragile ecosystems. 
Thus, the need for well-calculated, properly defined, and vigorously defended limits to tourism. Consider the important policy information when we combine biological studies with potential tax revenue and local wages – these measures provide information as to construction types and tourist limits that need to be steadfast. That is sustainability!

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