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Retiring Responsibly in Mexico
U.S. retirees helped measure sea turtles during a visit to Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico, with RED Sustainable Tourism. (Photo Credit: Anne McEnany)
By Anne McEnany, Senior Advisor, Conservation & Environment Program, International Community Foundation
In 2011, the International Community Foundation released "The Greening of U.S. Retirement Destinations in Mexico: Emerging Issues and Trends in Coastal Communities" analyzing environmentally-specific consumer perceptions and preferences among U.S. retirees and second home buyers in Mexican coastal communities, including recycling, reducing consumption, and green building.
The report highlights how U.S. retirees are addressing the environment independently in Mexico and how developers can capitalize on growing consumer interest in "greener" living. The report also provides recommendations to Mexican decision makers on development practices, sustainable tourism criteria, and creating healthier communities.
This report is one of the first to analyze U.S. retiree consumer preferences and priorities when it comes to the environment in Mexican coastal communities. According to Richard Kiy, study co-author and President of the International Community Foundation, "Mexico's coastline is known for its beaches and warm blue water, but its marine biodiversity is equally spectacular, attracting tourist investments to its natural abundance. Yet, as the tourist infrastructure grows, the marine biodiversity and fragile coastal area are the first victims, threatening the very substance of Mexico’s coastal tourism offerings."
Accordingly, Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico, has announced a new National Accord for Tourism, to position Mexico in the top five global tourist destinations by 2018. This accord also aims to generate forty billion dollars for the local Mexican economy, create four million direct jobs and twelve million indirect jobs.
In this respect, it is important to point out that these objectives should not focus on excessive urban development, but instead on quality sustainable tourism that generates economic resources and conserves the environment, since Mexican natural resources, its biodiversity and many UNESCO World Heritage sites constitute the essence of local tourism.
The recent declarations of President Calderon and the Minister of Tourism, Gloria Guevara attributing a reduction in tourist visits to Mexico to current conditions, do not coincide with results of the International Community Foundation’s reports, which show that trends in rising violence and pollution can motivate tourists and US retirees to leave the country.
The International Community Foundation conducted a comprehensive study of 840 U.S. retirees in Mexican coastal communities between July and November 2009, including questions related to their behavior regarding environmental issues, as well as the opportunities to improve their "adopted" community’s quality of life as it relates to the local environment. The target populations surveyed were those aged 50 years or older who are either retired full-time in Mexico or residing there on a part-time basis.
The Foundation's survey found that U.S. retirees over 50 years of age living in coastal Mexico are equally environmentally-minded in their passions, their purchases, and their actions:
- More U.S. retirees in Mexican coastal communities enjoyed bird watching - 15.1 percent - than played golf-14.1 percent.
- 63.4 percent of respondents indicated that issues of environmental sustainability were "somewhat important" or "very important" to them when they selected and purchased their home. Only 7 percent said that these issues were "not important."
- In searching for a home in Mexico, 56.4 percent of respondents indicated that they did not feel that they had any "green" or environmentally friendly options.
- The overwhelming majority of respondents (78.7 percent) have actively considered their environmental impact on their adopted new community in Mexico. They drive less (63.3 percent), consume less electricity (53.1 percent), and use less water (41.4 percent).
- 31 percent of respondents recycle already and 46.0 percent of respondents would recycle if they could, as no recycling programs are available in their communities.
- 42 percent are concerned or very concerned about climate change.
When asked what key factors would lead U.S. retirees to leave Mexico, the number one reason noted by 57.6 percent of respondents would be a noticeable increase in crime targeted towards U.S. retirees or tourists, followed by 44.5 percent who identified declining environmental quality of their adopted community due to increased sewage runoff, litter, and water pollution.
The report is available electronically in both English and Spanish at: http://www.icfdn.org/publications/rra.php. The report is the fifth report in the Foundation's "U.S. Retirement in Mexico" research series, which also included reports on trends in volunteerism, philanthropy, and civic engagement; health care access; lifestyles and demographics; and housing and real estate of the American retiree expatriates in Mexican coastal communities. Please contact Anne McEnany at anne[at]icfdn.org for more information.