Cancun, a paradise with an expiration date?

Miles and miles of white sand inviting you to spend the day under a lounge chair facing the sea. That’s the perfect picture of your ideal vacation in the Mexican Caribbean beaches and resorts. But this picture that may have an unsure future given the impacts that climate change may have on this paradisiacal destination.

Located in the Yucatan peninsula in the south of Mexico and with 3.3 million visitors every year, Cancun represents the biggest touristic destination of Mexico and Latin America. With more than 88 thousand hotel rooms along the 14 miles of pristine white beaches (1), it is a key investment location for the principal hospitality companies in the world. Grupo Posadas being one of the key players in the sector.

Grupo Posadas is the biggest operator of hotels in Mexico with 2015 sales of $6.901B pesos and $13.77B in total assets. (2) As of December 31st, 2015, there were 141 hotels and resorts operating under Posadas 8 brands, with a total of 23,259 rooms, distributed in 62 Mexican Cities, including the most important urban and beach destinations where Cancun plays an important role in the company portfolio. (3)

Impact of Climate Change in Cancun

It’s unclear whether climate change will increase or decrease the number of hurricanes, but scientists have correlated the influence of climate change related factors to the impact and severity they could cause. Based on sophisticated models, scientists expect an increase in the wind speeds by 2-11 percent given warmer sea surface temperatures and rainfall rates during these storms are expected to increase by about 20 percent. (4)

While most people concentrate on the fact that hurricanes can be expected to intensify their impacts during the next decade, it’s important to notice that they represent a major current risk given that they can have a faster and immediate impact by swiping the beach away in as little as one day. A proof of this latent risk is Hurricane Wilma that in 2005 hit Cancun for 60 hours with torrential rains and winds that reached 110 miles an hour, washing away the sand and parts of the tourism infrastructure with an estimated impact cost of $2.5B. (5)

Another important risk is the rise of the global sea level. Scientists estimate that by 2100 it could rise 80 cm (2.6 feet) and even figures of 2 mts (6.6) are possible. (6) The rising of sea level not only increases the severity of hurricanes but also represents a major threat of beach erosion, producing a valuable risk on the real estate of the region since most of the Yucatan and Caribbean tourism infrastructure is located a few meters from the sea. Thus, representing a serious threat to the tourism industry in the region.

What is Grupo Posadas doing in favor of the Environment?

Grupo Posadas is aware of the uncertain impacts that the climate change may have on the environment and their business, and by doing so it decided to make from its environmental practice one of the pillars of the business operations and construction protocols of the company. The materials, equipment, and facilities along with the policies and procedures of their hotels have the objective of minimizing the environmental impact they could have in the environment. Their different programs range from measurement, analysis and saving procedures of energy consumption and gas emissions, to waste and chemicals management, among others. (7)

What else can they do?

Grupo Posadas should continue its effort to earn the Environmental Quality in Tourism certification in all their hotels. This certification will ensure the implementation of various rigorous control measures and process evaluations. (7) In the transition to earning this certification, Grupo Posadas can create more rigorous policies for its suppliers too, ensuring that all the large range of industries which whom they have a commercial or strategic partnership are aligned towards a common goal of environment conservation and preservation.

Also, by having direct contact with the community with different social and volunteering programs, they could create sustainability programs that help the community prevent and be prepared for meteorological phenomena. Helping no only the community but the environment surrounding them as well.

(708 words)

  1. Boletin Turismo, CONCANACO, January 2016,
  2. Grupo Posadas 2015 CEO annual report
  3. Grupo Posadas 2015 BMV Annual Report
  3. Kinematic Constraints on Glacier Contributions to 21st-Century Sea-Level Rise; Science Magazine, 05 Sep 2008; Vol. 321, Issue 5894, pp. 1340 – 1343



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Student comments on Cancun, a paradise with an expiration date?

  1. Thank you for your post. Grupo Posadas seems to be tackling the issue of climate change by introducing internal controls that limit their company’s impact on the surrounding environment. The initiative you described considers energy, gas, water, waste and chemical contamination. As one company, Grupo Posadas can only hope to be a small part of the change that is necessary to stem the effects of climate change. Acting as responsible stewards of their environment is a necessary part of a long-term strategy, but what is their short-term strategy? Their efforts will do little to change the tide of climate change and will certainly not do so in time to prevent future harm to the company’s properties. Grupo Posadas must invest in infrastructure that can withstand storms. It must also consider if there are any ways to fortify its shorelines to prevent future harm. In the medium term, Grupo Posadas should consider investing in non-coastal properties that are better insulated from the storms.

  2. As someone who has been to Cancun a few times, this post definitely resonates with me. I think you would be interested to know that Cancun hosted the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference that brought 12,000 governmental officials and UN representatives to discuss the very real issues you highlighted in the article. The solutions posed from this conference were precedents to the Paris Agreement, which today is a global action plan to put the world on track to limit climate change.

    I think the challenge for Grupos Posadas is that they need real cooperation from the other hotel operators in Cancun who may not have the scale or resources to implement many of the climate change initiatives you suggest. Cancun is well-known for its “all-inclusive” offering, and I wonder whether more protocols for reducing waste and/or using more environmentally-friendly products and supplies could also enhance these operators’ ability to preserve Cancun. Given that virtually 100% of Cancun’s economy relies on tourism, what do you think the impact would be if hotel operators charged a nominal fee (proceeds going toward sustainability initiatives) to visitors who pay for an “all-inclusive” package upfront? Perhaps, tourists would be willing and ready to help preserve such a beautiful destination that attracts so many repeat visitors.

    Also, there may need to be a more global partnership with hotel operators, particularly outside these high-risk regions, that together can drive sustainability initiatives and raise the awareness for climate change that may eliminate a whole segment of the hospitality industry. Grupos Posadas is bearing the burden themselves, but we may be at a point where they need some outside help to combat this problem.

  3. Great article, thank you for the post. I think it is great what the company is doing to reduce emissions, and I agree that the company should enforce the same stringent standards on its suppliers. Also, I think that the company should focus on making investments to respond to possible hurricanes on cities. This article offers a few suggestions of how to prepare for a hurricane by improving the technology infrastructure of the city: Additionally, the government or the company might consider adopting some of the same investments that Venice made:

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