Nayarit sets the target: Become Mexico’s most sustainable destination.

World Travel & Tourism Council
4 min readFeb 27, 2024

The State of Nayarit in western Mexico, lying between the mountains of the Western Sierra Madre and the Pacific Ocean and endowed with some of the country’s most important biodiversity resources as well as a coastline with over 300 km / 200 miles of beaches, is the perfect location for open air leisure pursuits and a variety of sporting activities.

Under Nayarit’s strategic action plan for 2026, the State aims to position itself as a growth destination for tourism. Over the next two years policy for the sector envisages the opening of more than 10 new hotels operated by Spanish chains including Grupo Iberostar as well as other international names such as Rosewood, Fairmont, Four Seasons and Marriott.

The benefits of this expansion programme will be delivered in the context of a wider vision of holistic sustainability for Nayarit. So promotion as a tourist destination will require official policy input that will include a policy for sustainability, not simply to reassure the tourist or serve as an additional marketing tool, but to help protect the destination’s identity and quality. That is why the State is requiring all new developments to have in place a sustainability policy covering all aspects of sustainable operation, social, economic, environmental and cultural, and to ensure that it is made publicly available. Businesses must also find the right balance between their use of natural resources and a positive impact on local communities’ enjoyment of the benefits of tourism. So far, that balance has not been achieved, and the State of Nayarit has set itself the goal of ensuring that the tourist’s experience includes activities that result in a more economically beneficial outcome for the local community. We are talking about access to natural resources, the development of ecotourism circuits and activities including bird watching, hiking, etc, that encourage the tourist to engage with the natural environment during their stay.

Nayarit has also implemented strategies aimed at minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive effects.

In pursuit of these innovative policy objectives, the State Government has enacted legislation requiring hotels to notify the number of client visits, as a means of measuring the tourist impact.

Nayarit has population of 1,300,000 and receives 12 million visitors every year — nearly ten times as many tourists as the State’s resident population. The information obtained will enable us to keep track of the situation on the ground and help us to develop a set of strategies for minimizing environmental impact as well as ensuring that the people of Nayarit benefit economically. The State is also looking to diversify its tourist traffic flows by redirecting tourist traffic to less heavily impacted locations, which will benefit the sector by relieving the pressure currently experienced by the most popular destinations.

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s Hotel Sustainability Basics programme is a verifiable scheme for tourist accommodation providers that enables hotels to take the first steps on their sustainability journey by meeting 12 key criteria. The scheme is voluntary, but we are looking to find a way of encouraging hotels in Nayarit to sign up to the scheme with a view to Nayarit becoming México’s most sustainable destination. The State and its Government are committed to encouraging and supporting the efforts of accommodation providers to achieve verification and obtain the Hotel Sustainability Basics mark within the aim of creating a domino effect and encouraging as many operators as possible to achieve this sustainability mark.

As a way of supporting the remoter parts of Nayarit, towns in the more rural areas of the State have received special designation as “Jewels of Nayarit”, a programme that has the same criteria as the “Magic Towns” with an internal designation and a set of criteria that must be met to be considered as such. At the same time another similar scheme, “Tourism’s Caravans”, is being rolled out in the communities and invitations to participate are being issued so that these communities can enjoy the benefits of tourism while at the same time being shown how, for example, if they organize a crafts market or gastronomic market they have to work on promoting it if they want to attract increased numbers of visitors from within the State and reap the financial benefits.

Nayarit has used its Decree on State-Protected Natural Areas as a means of protecting and preserving its 300 km / 200 miles of pristine coasts and beaches, coral reefs, nature reserves, protected areas and Biosphere Reserves such as the Marietas Islands. The Decree is closely aligned with Federal Decrees currently being transposed into State-level legislation in order to ensure co-operation and above all the provision of education and training aimed at the protection of these particularly sensitive areas. The experience of the Marietas Islands provides an example: local businesses began organising visits to the islands which led to bird species like the blue-footed booby migrating elsewhere in order to escape the impact of tourism at this beautiful location. The legislation is needed in order to prevent this type of situation arising and so that the community can be taught to understand that these places are “Protected Nature Reserves” and it is our responsibility to take care of every kind of natural resource.

We are also trying to persuade accommodation providers to minimize the impact of their activities by limiting the amount of land they use to build new accommodation units and reducing their offer, at the same time increasing their prices, providing additional services and publicising their strategic commitment to sustainability.

In conclusion, we hope that, between them, all these actions and plans will help ensure that Nayarit remains a destination in harmonious equilibrium with both people and planet, striking the right balance for all tourism policy of minimising negative and maximising positive impacts.

By Juan Enrique Suárez del Real Tostado, State of Nayarit Secretary of Tourism and President of the Association of Mexican Secretaries of Tourism (ASETUR) [Asociación de Secretarios de Turismo de México].



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