A rising tourist destination, Holbox has made the remarkable move of rebranding itself: originally a shark-fishing village, the people of Isla Holbox are making the transition to becoming a whale shark touring destination. As such, the local community has collectively agreed that their priority is conserving the resource rather than fishing it. The community stands strong beside the natural world: there are no cars in sight, vehicles are prohibited to enter, and the roads are unpaved. In 2015, locals fought off proposals of large-scale developments and gathered signatures to urge the government in creating a management plan for the surrounding marine reserve. Here, the community of Holbox lives with environmental conservation in mind.
White sands and whale sharks: these island’s natural resources entice travelers and support a growing tourism industry. Part of the Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve, Isla Holbox has a wealth of biodiversity that act as a basis for their economy. Traditionally a village reliant on fishing, this transformation to ecotourism is unlike others--selling shark skins and fins was profitable and the artisanal fishery (such as lobster) sustained the local households. But, the local community discovered that taking tourists to see whale shark aggregations wasn’t a bad side gig, and as time progressed, it became a cornerstone industry to the local economy. As the ecotourism industry continues to bloom in the region, the community of Holbox is determined to expand their tourism industry without compromising the resources.
For now, Holbox is safe from developers--but the future may continue to attract major resort facilities, especially as tourism grows. Balancing this economical aspect with conservation objectives is key, and the community of Holbox is pressuring the government for a robust management plan to assist in this endeavor. The rapid pace of industry development and growth must be met with the same will for conservation and preservation of the region, and the people of Isla Holbox are undeniably facing this challenge.