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Equator Initiative Case Study - Community Tours Sian Ka’an

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The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is the largest marine protected area in Mexico, spanning more than 1.3 million acres of land and ocean. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its rich biodiversity and wealth of Mayan culture; “Sian Ka’an” is Mayan for “where the sky is born”.
Working within this protected area is Community Tours Sian Ka’an, an alliance of three sustainable ecotourism cooperatives that work directly with the Punta Allen and Muyil indigenous communities. While the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve receives thousands of visitors every year, indigenous communities have not historically benefited from this traffic or from investments in the local economy: the initiative has aimed to change this by training community guides in operating small, group-based ecotourism ventures, promoting Mayan culture through visits to archaeological sites, and the sale of tourism-related handicraft products. The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. As local and indigenous groups across the world chart a path towards sustainable development, the Equator Prize--issued biennially by the Equator Initiative--shines a spotlight on their efforts by honoring them on an international stage. This project was awarded the Equator Prize in recognition of its contribution to local sustainable development solutions.

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