Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Big Bend-Rio Bravo, Mexico

Tourism Project: Sustainable Tourism Plan for the Rio Bravo region of Mexico

Using sustainable tourism to preserve the cultural heritage, conserve the natural resources, and strengthen the local economies of Boquillas, Jaboncillos, and Norias, Mexico.

  • Client: The Commission for Environmental Cooperation
  • Partners: U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and the Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)
  • Tourism Project Duration: October 2012 – June 2013

The Challenge

The communities of Boquillas, Jaboncillos, and Norias, Mexico are located in one of the most remote regions of North America along the U.S. – Mexico border. With a rich history, unique culture, and beautiful surrounding landscape, these communities have traditionally been a popular place for tourists from nearby Big Bend National Park to visit, and tourism has traditionally been their primary source of revenue. But when the Boquillas border crossing closed in 2002, tourism arrivals have declined significantly. While the crossing has since been reopened, these communities still suffer from more than a decade of neglect and underdevelopment. A renewed focus on tourism development in the region has the potential to help alleviate some of these problems, but with ecological issues like erosion and natural resource extraction and fear of losing their cultural heritage being serious issues for these communities as well, this development must be conducted in a sustainable manner.

The Solution

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has contracted Solimar to develop a sustainable tourism plan for the community of Boquillas, with plans to expand and include the communities of Jaboncillos and Norias. Solimar implemented tourism development in such a way so as to preserve local culture and conserve natural resources, generating income for the communities. The plan focused on increased organization and professionalism through training and assistance in product development, new and improved tourism products and services that give visitors a chance to leave money behind that creates jobs and income, and increased awareness and support of local residents in protecting the region’s natural and cultural resources as a vital part of their local tourism economy.

Major Activities

The tourism development plan of this tourism project was implemented through the following activities:

  • Stakeholder Participation: Solimar engaged all relevant stakeholders in various ways throughout the process, including client meetings, inception workshops, and during the tourism assessment, business planning, and training sessions.
  • Tourism Assessment: Solimar conducted a deep analysis of both supply and demand for the community tourism products and the destination in general. Solimar used this assessment information to identify tourism product concepts and lay the foundation for developing new products.
  • Business Planning: The tourism assessment information was then used to develop business plans and tour packages. The business plans serve as a “road map” for moving forward with product development and helped define roles and responsibilities within the tourism enterprises. The plans include conservation planning strategies and reflect the socio-economic and cultural conditions of the communities that emphasize communal economic activities.
  • Capacity Building: Solimar conducted a one-day introductory guide and tourism training workshop for interested local community members that focused on sustainable tourism, customer services, interpretive techniques for naturalist guides, and sea turtle tourism. We also developed a “Tourism Toolkit” that documents a comprehensive training program to be used for future trainings.
  • Marketing Support: Solimar provided marketing support to the community tourism enterprises through the development of marketing strategies, branding, and social media marketing. 


  • Assessed supply of and demand for tourism products in Boquillas and neighboring areas.
  • Created a sustainable tourism business plan for "Discover Boquillas" and delivered a Tourism Enterprise Development Training Program
  • Established social media channels for Discover Boquillas, including a blog a Facebook page.  

The Tourism Project Link:

Umbrella project description on the CEC website

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