Located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, the village of Cancún was radically transformed when mass tourism development began there in the early 1970s. Cancún and the surrounding “Maya Riviera” quickly became a wildly popular tourism destination offering a variety of cultural experiences, including visits to ancient Maya archaeological sites. Now, some of those archaeological sites are in danger of being “loved to death,” while others are only just beginning to appear on the tourist radar. There is increasing pressure to balance tourist accessibility with conservation of the ancient buildings and to find a balance that incorporates architectural and ecological conservation, management of the tourist procession through the site, and effective interpretation of the site to enhance the visitor experience. Sites need to be presented within historical, temporal, and geographical contexts, and tourists must be educated about the host region and local indigenous cultures to enhance the tourism experience and encourage tourist behaviors that promote sustainability at the site.
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