Iván Chávez on the future of sustainable travel and tourism

Founded by Chávez’s father, Daniel Chávez Morán, Grupo Vidanta built its first hotel in the resort town of Mazatlán, Mexico in 1974.

Vidanta - Riviera Maya (photo credit: Courtesy)
Vidanta - Riviera Maya
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sustainable travel and tourism are essential topics these days as millennial travelers are more aware than previous generations of the impact that their travel choices have on the surrounding environment. Fortunately, this awareness has grown with the travel and tourism industry, making people travel-conscious like never before. This is especially pertinent to vanishing or endangered destinations.
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, a site is “in danger” when the characteristics for which it was included on the World Heritage List are threatened. While it comes as no surprise that many Second and Third World sites—like Timbuktu in Mali, Africa—are in danger from internal and external threats, the “outstanding universal value” of such sites as the Historic Centre of Vienna, Austria; the maritime mercantile city of Liverpool, England; and Everglades National Park in the state of Florida are also now endangered. Ironically, Venice—which is often cited online as a vanishing destination—has managed to keep its lagoons afloat, despite allegations that it’s tilting and sinking into the Adriatic Sea at an average rate of 0.04–0.08 inches per year.
The fact that millennials are not only the best traveled of all previous generations but also the most environmentally conscious is a unique paradox for the travel and tourism industry—and one that real estate developers like Grupo Vidanta’s Executive Vice President, Iván Chávez, take seriously.
Founded by Chávez’s father, Daniel Chávez Morán, Grupo Vidanta built its first hotel in the resort town of Mazatlán, Mexico in 1974. Much later Chávez joined the company as Executive VP in 2007 and under this father-son leadership, the real estate conglomerate now includes seven destinations in Mexico with more destinations, resort hotels, and ventures under development. This includes various real estate developments in and around Acapulco, Puerto Peñasco, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos; the Mar de Cortés International Airport(also known as Rocky Point or Puerto Peñasco); a private construction company; and numerous corporate social responsibility initiatives with non-profit organizations—the Vidanta Foundation and The Delia Morán Vidanta Foundation. The Vidanta Foundation promotes social sciences and culture, spreads humanitarian and democratic values and civic culture, and supports initiatives and practices that help reduce poverty and inequality in Latin America, while The Delia Morán Vidanta Foundation supports learning and development for underprivileged children in the region of Nayarit.
Under Chávez’s management, projects have been designed, built and operated by Grupo Vidanta in ways that are environmentally and ecologically friendly. One example of this “green philosophy” is the Cirque du Soleil Theater at Vidanta Riviera Maya. One of Chávez’s many collaborations with other industry leaders, the theater was specifically constructed to showcase Cirque du Soleil’s one-of-a-kind dinner and show experience, JOYÀ. During the site’s development, 80 percent of the raw jungle was preserved and the remaining 20 percent was relocated. The theater itself was built with eco-friendly materials, while the exterior decorations and pergola were created with local hardwoods. To protect the surrounding land from watershed, the surrounding parking lot and roads were made of 100 percent porous, ecological concrete.
Another example is Almaverde, a 40-acre organic-compliant working farm in Nuevo Vallarta, started both to further the resort’s sustainability, but also enable greater control over ingredient quality. As a result, Vidanta’s restaurants, employee cafeterias, groceries, and markets can now enjoy the highest standard in local product: food that’s cultivated, prepared, and enjoyed, without ever leaving home.
Chávez’s commitment to responsible construction, real estate development, and tourism has earned the organization numerous awards and recognitions. In association with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), EarthCheck, and the Rainforest Alliance, the Mexican Secretary of Tourism awarded Vidanta resorts of Nuevo Vallarta, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Puerto Peñasco, and a Distinction “S” for international accessibility, as well as for environmental accountability and sustainability. EarthCheck also issued its own awards for environmental compliance and sustainability. The resorts of Los Cabos and Puerto Peñasco won EarthCheck Gold, while those of Acapulco, Nuevo Vallarta, and Riviera Maya earned Platinum ratings.
From May 16–19, 2018, Chávez’s relationships with other industry leaders led to Grupo Vidanta’s inaugural travel forum, which addressed the future of sustainable tourism in Mexico, the Caribbean, and the greater Latin American community. The forum welcomed politicians, students, celebrities, and industry experts in open discussions about environmental sustainability, the role of technology, and other ways in which millennials are reshaping the way people experience travel. Among the attendees were actors and activists Brooke Shields and Gwyneth Paltrow; as well as Daniel Lamarre, the President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil; and Ferran Adrià,one of the best chefs in the world and creator of the experimental restaurant elBulli. Forum highlights reached millions of viewers via national news networks and select media outlets.
Chávez’s commitment to environmental sustainability is part of a larger movement toward responsible tourism, which seeks to have a positive impact on the industry and encourage travelers to invest in globally conscious tourism practices. This can be as basic as properly disposing of waste and buying souvenirs from local businesses or as adventurous as volunteering in underprivileged communities around the globe. This will ensure that no matter where our feet take us, any lasting imprint we leave behind us will be a positive one.