A few words about Cozumel, Mexico

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I spent last winter here (in Cozumel, Mexico) and I’m with the same folks in a nice apartment. I’ve been diving once and got to see my first Black Tip Shark here ever. They are common in the Caribbean and this is the time of year for them to migrate. I’ve seen them elsewhere, but there are so many divers here that sharks, except for Nurse Sharks, are uncommon.

Cozumel is, for unknown reasons, a major stop for all the cruise ship lines. Some days there are as many as nine cruise ships in all at once. The ‘Cruzeros’ walk aimlessly up and down the Esplanade getting sunburned and going from one T-Shirt Shop to the next Tanzanite Store. The International Diamond Exchange is now in its fourteenth consecutive year of a ‘Grand Opening’ and you can buy ‘authentic’ Cuban cigars. Actually there is a guy who goes to Cuba once a month and buys real Cuban cigars, but what do I know? They all smell like burning tires to me.

If you walk a couple of blocks off the Esplanade into town you’ll find the typical Mexican town of San Miguel. The cruise ships actually tell people not to go more than two blocks off the Esplanade because ‘it’s dangerous!’ The fact is they have an agreement with the T-Shirt Shops and Tanzanite Stores to keep people in close. About two blocks in the prices drop in half. The most dangerous thing by far for tourists is the rental of motor-scooters; that accounts for the majority of injuries here.

Cozumel is generally considered the best dive location in the Caribbean, and that is good and bad. Since it is the best, it tends to be pretty busy all year round. But the diving is outrageous and I love the town, the food, and the people. I’ll probably end up living here in a few years when I get tired of traveling all the time.

With permission from a personal email received from Steve Bissell.

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Ron Mader at Planeta.com and government spotlights

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I’ve been in a conversation with Ron about “eco certification”  and he offers up the idea that the focus ought to include certifying governments, particularly the eco and tourism departments. Ron’s brilliant idea is to create an award program to judge how well government portals walk the talk of responsible travel and ecotourism. I think this topic begs for discussion and would appreciate your thoughts. Ron has given me permission to list his posting here about nominations for government entities promoting ecotourism and responsible travel:  Planeta.com — Government websites that spotlight ecotourism and responsible travel are eligible to win Planeta.com’s 2008 award.  Nominees include environmental, tourism and other government portals in three categories: local, national and international institutions. Voting takes place July 16-September 1. Information collected will help update the Planeta.com website as we add links.

The award is announced in advance of World Tourism Day (September 27) as way of pointing out best practices.

2008 will be the second year of the Ecotourism Spotlight Award. The first winner was Ecotourism Laos funded by the Laos National Tourism Administration.

HOW THIS WORKS

STEP 1: NOMINATING WEBSITES

Ideally we would like to hear from respected local tour operators, comunity leaders and journalists who are pleased with how their local, regional and national governments are working to develop and promote ecotourism. Eco travelers who have found helpful websites may also nominate their favorite government portal. Those in charge of government sites can also submit their own work. The first stage is to collect as many quality nominees as possible.

The application asks what information the website includes, particularly the practical information for travelers about ecotourism, responsible travel and sustainability. We ask whether the site includes details about local operators, city parks and public transportation. Does the site includes exterior links to local businesses and conservation groups? Does the site highlight indigenous or aboriginal tourism options?

STEP 2: CHOOSING NOMINEES – Nominees will be shortlisted and the best sites will be asked if they are willing to participate in the award. Those who wish to be considered as nominees will be asked to include a link to the Ecotourism Spotlight Award and if possible, the logo.

STEP 3: VOTING – Voting takes place July 16-September 1. Respondents will be asked to review all the sites and choose their favorite. Multiple votes from a singe user will not be permitted.

SPONSORS

We welcome financial sponsorship to help develop the awards as a means of creating an incentive for communication and showcasing best practices. Those interested in helping finance development should contact us!

PLANETA.COM

Planeta.com is an award-winning website that presents articles and discussion about the environment and travel. The site debuted in 1994. Travelers will find tips on choosing eco-friendly, people-friendly and place-friendly trips. Professionals will find a number of helpful resources, including our Exploring Ecotourism Resource Guide.

WINNING TIPS

Government websites are advised to:
1) Create an informative, content-rich website that provides detailed information for visitors seeking eco-friendly, people-friendly and place-friendly travel. Provide direct links to local operations and seek input from those at the vanguard of in-country ecotourism on making your site even better for national and international visitors.
2) Add the logo and link for the award on your website. Alert visitors to check out all the contenders.

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