Several million tourists a year travel to Cancun on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula for sun, fun and pleasure. Their tourist experience is rooted in the indigenous Mayan people and their culture of service, according to Servando Acuna Braun, president of Medical Travel Mexico. "The origin of the tourism success in Cancun has a lot to do with the people there," he said. "We are used to helping those in need." City leaders have decided to add personal health to pleasure as a key reason for Americans to drop in and stay a week or two in one of the sun and surf resort's 60,000 hotel rooms.
Braun envisions a thriving medical tourism business based on looking after the health and wellness needs of people with old-fashioned personal care. The more than 500,000 Mayans in the Yucatan Peninsula who significantly provide the labor force for Cancun's tourism industry are the children and descendents of rope industry workers who lost their jobs to nylon. By the late 19th century Yucatan was one of the wealthiest areas in Mexico, due to the henequen cactus, whose raw fibers were made into rope and burlap bags. A hundred years of prosperity came to an end after World War II with the advent of synthetic materials.
Then began a peninsula rebirth with Cancun and Riviera Maya rising up out of the region's limestone soil, bounded by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Riviera Maya begins 20 miles south of the Cancun international airport, in the middle of the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula and continues to a Punta Allen fishing village. In a country with 225 registered indigenous ethnic groups, Yucatan has the greatest percentage of indigenous population at 59%, according to the National Commission for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples (CDI).