At Azul Beach, a boutique hotel in Petempich Bay, on the beautiful Riviera Maya, plastic and aluminum waste represents an opportunity for employees. Clemente Olivares received new eyeglasses thanks to the “Meaningful Recycling” (Reciclando con sentido in Spanish) program of the Karisma Hotels & Resorts chain. The Meaningful Recycling program encourages employees to collect their recyclable waste at work and at home, which are then sold to support the health and economic needs of one or two employees per campaign.
This is one example of the valuable social impact efforts that are being carried out by hotels as part of the MARTI sustainable tourism program on the Riviera Maya. In the first phase of the program, implemented since 2006, MARTI mainly focused on environmental practices in operational areas of the hotels, but since 2010, it has been implementing a second phase of work to strengthen hoteliers commitment to their employees and the communities in which they operate.
“This pillar includes criteria for evaluating whether environmental improvements are also benefitting the communities, that all the labor rights of employees are met and their well-being is strengthened, and local culture is respected and promoted,” explained Fernando del Valle, operations manager for the Sustainable Hospitality Program of the Riviera Maya Hotel Association (AHRM for its Spanish acronym), a MARTI partner. The program provides training support to hotel employees. So far they have trained over 2,100 hotel employees on topics that link stewardship and the Mayan culture.
“The campaign has made the staff committed to recycling at the hotel and at home,” said Nayeri Ramos, human resources manager for Azul Beach. In the last campaign, they collected 12,000 Mexican pesos, the equivalent of about US$715, which was used to buy Olivares’ eyeglass lenses and a wheelchair for a relative of another employee. Separately, the Karisma group sells the plastic and glass waste generated from their hotels and invests part of the proceeds into social causes and environmental improvements. During 2014, it received nearly US$50,000 for such projects from the sale of recyclables.
Karisma also helps women of the Maya community of Chumpón by buying their jams, which are served in the restaurants of all the hotels, and offering them a space to sell their products in its souvenir shops.
The Bahia Principe complex supports local schools through its Ecological Foundation. As many as 400 students per month come to learn at their 57-hectare nature interpretation center, and the turtle conservation center, where over a thousand nests per year are protected. The foundation also gives environmental talks at the schools and makes donations of educational materials.
Noteworthy initiatives at other hotels include the construction of a milk bank so that breastfeeding mothers can pump their breast milk, store it safely, then take the milk home at the end of the work shift; fundraising campaigns for local schools; beach cleanups; athletic competitions for social purposes; and many others.