The Title Says a lot: Prof of Sustainable Tourism

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One of the hallmarks of my press trips is meeting ‘interesting locals’ wherever I am. To do this I ask my hosts to find people I can interview and get a feel for the local zietgeist. It never fails to produce quote-worthy people who offer us unvarnished views of politics, trends and what people are talking about.

Today I was driven to the University del Caribe, a public college of about 1800 students on the outskirts of Cancun. Professor Pedro Moncada works in the Dept of Sustainable Tourism, part of the hospitality major at the college. We met in his airy office and I quizzed him about things people are talking about in Cancun.

First I wanted to know about the men who gather in the nearby park, hordes of workers who our driver Roger said were day laborers waiting to be picked up for work. “They are mostly from Chiapas,” he told me. “Cancun is the only place in Mexico where nearly everyone can get a job,” added Erika Mitzunaga, PR manager for the CVB. “People come here from all over Mexico to try and find work. But to work in the hotels you have to have schooling, and of course, speak English.” So these guys wait for $10 a day jobs working in construction or landscaping. In Chiapas they’d be earning $40 a week, so it’s well worth being here in prosperous Cancun.

The one shortage Erika and Pedro both cited was technical workers, people who can fix things like laundry machines, dishwashers and HVAC systems. So often they have to import these technical experts from the US. “Everyone wants to be a lawyer here, not an engineer,” she said.

The university’s graduates have done well finding jobs in the hotel and restaurant business, said Pedro. And the major indicates that the government and local officials are placing a heavy emphasis on keeping the tourism sustainable. Unlike in the early ’70s when these dozens of hotels were being built at breakneck speed.

“The new president is committed to keeping the balance and he’s much more transparent than in previous years,” said Pedro. “Tourism is the strongest and most sustainable business, so we’ve got to prepare more students for this career.”