Towards a Sustainable Sun, Sea, and Sand Tourism:
The Value of Ocean View and Proximity to the Coast
Gabriela Mendoza-González 1,2,3,*ID , M. Luisa Martínez 1, Roger Guevara 1ID ,
Octavio Pérez-Maqueo 1, María Cristina Garza-Lagler 2,3 ID and Alan Howard 4
1Institute of Ecology, C.A., Carretera Antigua a Coatepec No. 351, El Haya, Xalapa 91500, Mexico;
firstname.lastname@example.org (M.L.M.); email@example.com (R.G.); firstname.lastname@example.org (O.P.-M.)
2CONACYT—Faculty of Sciences, Academic Unit of Yucatan, National Autonomous University of Mexico,
Carretera Sierra Papacal ChuburnáPuerto Km 5, Sierra Papacal, Yucatan 97302, Mexico;
3National Coastal Resilience Laboratory (LANRESC), National Autonomous University of Mexico, Sisal,
Yucatan 97302, Mexico
4Statistical Software Support & Consulting Services, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA;
*Correspondence: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org;
Tel.: +52-(999)-341-0860 (ext. 7626)
Received: 21 December 2017; Accepted: 14 March 2018; Published: 29 March 2018
Coastal tourism is expanding worldwide, mostly owing to the attraction to relevant
ecosystem services such as the scenic beauty and recreational activities. The aim of this study was to
analyze the value of these, using hedonic analysis by assessing how prices of hotel rooms are related
to the scenic view, location, non-ecosystem amenities, and size of the hotels in three touristic areas
of Veracruz, México. We found that, besides the size of the hotel and the number of non-ecosystem
amenities, room prices increased by 8% and 57%, depending on the ocean view and accessibility
to the beach, respectively. These results help to understand why hotels are built very close to the
coastline, despite the high risk of extreme and frequent meteorological events. The unorganized and
intense development of the tourist industry may act in contrast to the necessity for conservation of
the natural ecosystems, rendering this activity highly unsustainable. The question is how to deal with
the dilemma of tourism growth and conservation. We suggest some alternatives that might help with
the conservation of natural ecosystems, while maintaining the combined provision of simultaneous
coastal ecosystem services such as an aesthetically pleasing view and recreation, as well as additional
services such as storm protection.
hedonic price; coastal landscape; beach proximity; tourism industry; coastal protection;
beach and costal dunes
Tourism is one of the most important economic activities worldwide, and its growth and
expansion have generated notable economic, social, and cultural beneﬁts that contrast with the
considerable impacts it often has on the surrounding natural environment [
]. Globally, expenditures
by international visitors on accommodation, food and drink, entertainment, and other services and
goods reached US $1260 billion in 2015, which represents an increase of 4.4% over 2014 [
]. In particular,
the coasts are the most appreciated environment in tropical areas, and consequently, tourism has
become a mass phenomenon where every year, millions of people seek relaxation and recreation,
preferably at the beach [
]. For this reason, many touristic developments and associated infrastructure
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012; doi:10.3390/su10041012 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 2 of 15
are found at or very close to the coast, providing amenities and services that visitors pursue for their
own comfort and enjoyment.
Mexico is the ninth most visited country in the world, the second most visited country in the
American continent (after the USA), and the number one destination in Latin America [
]. In Mexico,
tourism contributes 8.6% of the national GDP and 45% of tourists choose the coastal zone as their
]. Touristic activities on the 17 coastal states in Mexico take place with different intensities,
although all of them are of great social and economic importance. International tourism is mainly
directed to Cancun, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta, while national tourism is concentrated in Acapulco,
Veracruz, and Cancun .
Indeed, tourism in Mexico (especially sun, sea, and sand tourism) has been considered a national
priority since the 1950s [
] because of the extensive coastline and abundance of sandy beaches.
The policies that have promoted coastal tourism during the last decades have resulted in the creation
of major international tourism destinations through the establishment of large hotel groups (mainly
international chains) of global relevance, which leads to the arrival of tourists with high purchasing
]. Nowadays, nearly 50% of the hotel rooms in Mexico are in coastal destinations [
and these trends are probably similar to other countries with a coastline. However, despite the
evident socioeconomic beneﬁts, the creation and development of these new coastal urban centers have
been mostly disorderly and inappropriate and thus, have affected the structure and functioning of
natural ecosystems through the ﬂattening of dunes, elimination of natural vegetation, and draining
and pollution of wetlands. The loss of such coastal ecosystems is of great importance, since they
function as a habitat for wildlife and offer a variety of ecosystem services, including shoreline
]. Furthermore, because coastal tourism often relies on high quality environments [
when coastal ecosystems are lost or degraded, the attraction that interested tourists in the ﬁrst
place is lost. This shows how most current policies aimed at tourism over exploitation can become
Why do tourists prefer the coast? The preference of sun, sea, and sand tourism has been analyzed
for different locations. On the northern coast of Poland, J ˛edrzejczak [
] found that coastal tourists chose
the coasts for vacationing because of fresh air and recreation activities, and, in a minimum percentage,
because of the scenic beauty. In turn, Williams  assessed tourist preferences in 5 beaches from the
UK, USA, Malta, Turkey, and Spain. The results of this study revealed that among 50 aspects that were
analyzed, tourists were mostly interested in water quality, safety, facilities, absence of litter, and scenic
beauty. George et al. [
] analyzed the supply and demand of attractions in the Caribbean region and
found that tourists preferred warm weather and proximity to the beach. In turn, in a worldwide study,
Onofri and Nunes [
] identiﬁed two groups of tourists based on their preferences: the ﬁrst were
mainly foreigners with an interest in cultural activities and natural environments, while the second
group were national tourists whose preferences were related to the beach and its attributes such as
width. More locally, Vargas-Martínez et al. [
] found that international tourists in Cancun, Mexico,
were concerned about environmental quality and were willing to pay for environmentally friendly
actions. In contrast, a smaller fraction of Mexican tourists was environmentally concerned. From the
studies described above, it can be concluded that although the preferences of coastal tourists are very
diverse and change between locations and over time, two demands stand out: the recreation activities
and the scenic beauty of the coastal landscape. Consequently, it is of relevance to assess how society
confers an economic value to these ecosystem services.
In México, Pérez-Verdín et al. [
] found that amongst all the ecosystem services that have been
analyzed, the most evaluated service was recreation, followed by water and agriculture resources.
Studies of the ecosystem services provided by Mexican coastal dunes are very rare [
]. To our
knowledge, to date there is only one published peer-reviewed study in which the value of coastal dune
ecosystem services is analyzed [
] and in this case, it was recognized that one of the most valuable
ecosystem services was coastal protection. However, while recognition has also been given to the
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 3 of 15
importance of the aesthetic value of the sea, beach, and dune landscape, and recreation, these aspects
have not been explored in detail.
The hedonic price theory was developed by Rosen [
] and is one of the methods used to
assess the aesthetic value of a landscape. This type of analysis is based on the idea that the value of
a product depends on its characteristics and attributes, which include its location and surroundings.
Hedonic analysis is a widely used method for estimating the value of ecosystem services, such as
landscape aesthetics, and the presence of a natural landscape (forest, lake, or beach) [
] vs. the
poor quality of surroundings that include nuclear plants, garbage dumps, toxic areas, reﬁneries and
polluted areas, narrow beaches, and hard engineering structures, among others [
hedonic analysis statistically separates the effect of the intrinsic value of the properties from other
factors in the surroundings [
]. This methodology can be used on the coasts to help provide
an estimate of the willingness of tourists to pay for the aesthetics of the landscape and the potential for
Although useful, some of the critiques of the hedonic analysis are based on how the data are
collected, because in many cases they come from interviews. Thus, the results are subjective because
they depend on the perception of the interviewees [
]. Therefore, to avoid this problem, we used
the prices of hotel rooms, which are objective and depend on the supply–demand market. A similar
approach has been used previously. For example, Vanslembrouch et al. [
] found that landscape
characteristics associated with agricultural activities increased the demand for rural tourism and
induced an increased willingness to pay for accommodation immersed in natural surroundings.
In a coastal setting, Hamilton [
] observed that in Germany, hotel prices were higher on natural
beaches, in comparison with developed beaches with dykes and breakwaters. Similarly, in Spain,
Rigall-I-Torrent et al. [
] explain that being in front of a beach increased hotel prices by 13% to 17%,
while Rangel-Buitrago et al. [
] and Ergin et al. [
] concluded that scenery was a very important
component for beach tourism, driving the economy of many coastal areas on the Caribbean coasts
of Colombia as well as Malta, Turkey, and UK, respectively. The same trends have been observed
in Mexico, where Lloret et al. [
] used a hedonic analysis in 34 beaches and found that hotel prices
increased with sustainable activities such as ecotourism and water quality.
Based on the above, the premise of this study was that proximity of the hotels to the beach and
access to an aesthetically pleasing ocean view play an important role in the choices made by tourists as
well as in their willingness to pay higher hotel prices. Thus, our objective was to analyze the value of
these ecosystem services (aesthetic and recreational) by using the cost of hotel rooms as a measure of
tourists’ willingness to pay in zones with contrasting touristic infrastructure. We focused our study on
the coasts of the state of Veracruz since this is a popular tourist destination [
] where, during the last
three decades, human activities have generated rapid land use change, with a 36% reduction in the
original forest cover and an intense erosion on the coast .
2.1. Study Area
The state of Veracruz is located in the central region of the Gulf of Mexico (Figure 1). Its shoreline
covers 745 km and is of great ecological, social, and economic importance at local, regional, and national
levels. Nationally, Veracruz is one of the states with the largest area and variety of coastal dunes .
The coastal population of the state of Veracruz is relatively high: 20% of the cities of Veracruz
and 27% of the state population (ca. 1,900,000 inhabitants) live less than 20 km from the coastline [
Tourism is very important in the state of Veracruz and occurs in contrasting settings that range from
highly developed cities with amenities and infrastructure to semi-developed areas with more natural
surroundings and a lower number of amenities. Based on the above, we compared three contrasting
touristic destinations located in the center of the coast of the state of Veracruz (Figure 1). From our
three study sites, Boca del Río (in the municipality of Boca del Río) is the area with the largest anthropic
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 4 of 15
impact, since it is highly urbanized and presents a very diminished area with natural ecosystems.
Forming part of the Veracruz–Boca del Río touristic complex, most of the landscape is urbanized
with intense touristic activities and the presence of large hotels, many of which are transnational,
with a large
variety of services offered. Small remnants of the natural (mangrove and beach) and
semi-natural (cultivated pasture) ecosystems still exist (Table 1). The beach at this site is discontinuous
along the length of the coastline due to the presence of groins that were constructed in recent decades;
the sediment that supplies the beach accumulates to one side of these protective structures while being
lost from the other because of the disruption they cause to the natural sedimentary dynamics [
The beaches present in this zone are narrow and, for some of the hotels studied, the sea breaks directly
on to the hotel with no beachfront.
Figure 1. Location of the study sites in the state of Veracruz.
Costa Esmeralda is a touristic corridor that comprises various municipalities (Tecolutla, San Rafael,
and Nautla) where hotels are less densely distributed. A high percentage of semi-natural ecosystems
such as croplands and pastures remains and it accounts for 81% of the landscape along with some
remnants of natural ecosystems such as mangrove and extensive beaches (Table 1). The urban area
occupies a low percentage of the study area, although there has been a recent trend towards accelerated
development driven by the tourist industry [
]. The beach of Costa Esmeralda is continuous and,
in some areas, very wide (100–150 m).
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 5 of 15
Finally, Chachalacas is a touristic zone developed in the municipality of Úrsulo Galván. Here, the
area of natural and semi-natural ecosystems, as well as cultivated zones, is much greater. Urban growth
in this site has taken place parallel to the coastline, mostly with the development of hotels and houses.
The study area comprises a landscape with mosaics differentiated by agricultural and livestock
production zones, an extensive coastal dune system, pastures, beach, urban zones, fragments of
tropical forest, and coastal scrubland and wetlands in the lower parts of the dunes (Table 1). Here, the
beach is continuous and, until 2007, presented strong erosion since the waves broke directly onto the
restaurants constructed on the beach. During 2009 and 2010, two breakwaters were constructed and
the beach has grown, while it has generated severe erosion further down-drift. One tourist attraction
that has been strongly developed in the region is the use of four-wheeled motorcycles on the coastal
dunes as a recreational activity .
Percentage of different and use cover in the three study sites within a 2.5-km-wide band
stretching inland from the shoreline. Numbers in parentheses denote the area in hectares (data modiﬁed
from Mendoza-González et al. ).
Attribute Boca del Río Costa Esmeralda Chachalacas
Forest 1 (26)
Cropland 53 (1642) 19 (492)
Dunes 22 (581)
Floodplains 1 (26)
Mangroves 9 (213) 9 (278)
Scrubland 2 (53) 24 (632)
Grassland 6 (140) 28 (870) 27 (696)
Beach 2 (30) 1 (51) 1 (27)
Urban 83 (1901) 7 (220) 5 (142)
2.2. Hedonic Analysis
The importance of the aesthetic and recreational ecosystem services (speciﬁcally access to an ocean
view and proximity to the beach) was analyzed in the hotels located within a 300 m strip running
perpendicular to the coastline. This distance was considered to be the range within which tourists had
the greatest opportunity to directly access the coastal landscape and the recreational activities of the
beach. Thus, in this strip, we quantiﬁed the number of hotels with (and without) an ocean view and
direct (or indirect) access to the beach. When performing our survey, we georeferenced the location
of each hotel, and thus, identiﬁed the accessibility to an ocean view or not. We also observed if the
sampled hotels had a direct access to the beach or if access required moving across communication
routes (streets or roads). Hotels in which tourists did not need to walk across a road were considered as
“close to the beach” while hotels where it was necessary to walk across a street or road were considered
as “far from the beach”.
In each hotel, we interviewed hotel personnel and thus gathered the average cost of single and
double rooms (see questionnaire in Appendix A). For this purpose, structured questionnaires were
] and applied in the reception areas of the hotels during the high season of July
2007 to avoid a seasonal effect on the prices. Finally, in order to ensure that the attributes that give
economic value to the landscape aesthetics and recreation on the coast only depend on ecosystem
factors, analysis of the hedonic prices was ﬁtted to all the additional factors related to the hotel room
prices, which included non-ecosystem elements (hereafter referred to as non-ecosystem amenities).
We made a signiﬁcant effort to assess as many hotels as possible, and thus, we sampled all
the hotels we found in each location, focusing on those that were located at the beach or across
the closest road, parallel to the shoreline. Because of differences between the locations (from more
urbanized in Boca del Río, to least urbanized in Chachalacas), the number of hotels differed between
locations: in Boca del Río we had a total of 16, in Chachalacas 26, and in Costa Esmeralda 50.
In the latter case
, because Costa Esmeralda is a touristic corridor, we included different beaches:
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 6 of 15
La Guadalupe, Ricardo Flores Magón, La Vigueta, Playa Oriente, Monte Gordo, Casitas, and Maracaibo.
Because we did not compare between locations, we considered that the differences in hotel density did
not represent a problem in terms of our goals.
Hotel prices were recorded in August 2007 and converted to average January–April 2016 prices
(due to the volatility of exchange rates during the last months) with a cumulative inﬂation rate from
2007 to 2016 of 40.96% using the calculator provided by INEGI [
]. The prices obtained were readjusted
to USD/2016, with an exchange rate of 17.85 according to the Banco de Mexico (MXN—USD) .
2.3. Data Analysis
We used a regression tree model to identify variables driving hotel prices in each location.
This model included ecosystem and non-ecosystem characteristics (ecosystem: landscape, location;
non-ecosystem: site, total number of rooms, and amenities). Also, because the actual number of
amenities was different among the studied sites, we used a second tree model based on the cost of
hotel rooms weighted by the number of amenities at each hotel. In this way, we have a standardized,
readily compared estimate of cost across dissimilar sites. In these analyses, ocean view (view and
no view) and proximity (near and far) had two levels. Because a single classiﬁcation tree may be
misleading and idiosyncratic, we used the approach of forest of trees in which each of the 1000 trees
computed was computed on a random subset (80%) of the total database. This was modeled in
a Language and Environment for Statistical Computing, the R software (3.3.1, by R Development Core
Team, R Foundation for Statistical computing, Vienna, Austria, 2013).
Once we found the most relevant variables, we performed a general linear regression model to
test the relevance of environmental variables: proximity to the beach and access to an ocean view.
The response variable was price per room, and the explanatory variables included the number of
non-ecosystem amenities offered by each hotel and ecosystem services (recreation and scenic view).
These data were grouped as numerical and categorical variables (see above) (Table 2). Services per
hotel were deﬁned as the total number of non-ecosystem amenities as a proxy of hotel classiﬁcation,
because in Mexico, there is not yet a standardized criterion that classiﬁes the different types of hotel
(boutique, bungalow, rest houses, etc.) according to the quality of the services that the guests receive,
but rather based on the number of amenities [
]. Because of the high heterogeneity between the sizes
of the hotels at the study sites with costly small boutiques and large international hotels, we explored
if the number of rooms explained the cost of the room.
Response and explanatory variables used to conduct the hedonic analysis. Ecosystem variables
are shown in bold type. (Number of observations: Boca del Río 16, Costa Esmeralda 26, Chachalacas 52).
Price per room (mean value of single and double
rooms, response variable)
Price (USD/2016) of each one of the types of rooms present in
all the hotels
With and without an ocean view Access to an aesthetically pleasing view of the landscape of the
beach and the ocean from the hotel room (values of 0 and 1)
(ecosystem service, binary explanatory variable)
Hotel location. Presence of beach in front of the hotel
Ability to access the beach without a requirement to traverse the
road (values of 0 and 1)
(ecosystem service, binary explanatory variable)
Services per hotel Single swimming pool, air conditioning, restaurant, several
swimming pools, conference room, gymnasium, bar, spa,
camping, eco-touristic service, gardens
(non-ecosystem amenities, explanatory numerical
variable, total number of non-ecosystem amenities
was quantiﬁed from 1 to 12)
Total number of rooms (non-ecosystem service,
explanatory numerical variable) Number of rooms per hotel
To determine the value associated with the ecosystem service of landscape aesthetics and
recreation, comparisons were made between the prices of hotel rooms with and without an ocean view,
using a general linear model (GLM). In the same way, an analysis was conducted of the value of hotels
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 7 of 15
that, by their location, were close to or distant from the beach. The calculations were conducted with
the reciprocal since the models used were GLM with GAMMA error and INVERSE link function.
Proximity to the beach and accessibility to an ocean view varied between the hotels in our study
sites. In Boca del Río, 62% of the hotels were located in front of the ocean, i.e., they had direct access to
the beach, and 75% had rooms with an ocean view. In Costa Esmeralda, these percentages were 58%
and 48%, respectively, and in Chachalacas, only 27% of the hotels were located in front of the beach,
but 73% had an ocean view.
The most expensive hotels were found in Boca del Río, although lower-priced hotels were also
found in this site (Figure 2). In this zone, most of the hotels offered a wide variety of services to
the tourists and had a very high average number of rooms per hotel (102). In contrast, lower hotel
prices were found in Costa Esmeralda and Chachalacas, with only three and two price categories
(respectively), because the variety of hotels in these zones was more homogeneous and the amenities
offered to the guests were reduced. The average number of rooms per hotel was 20 in Costa Esmeralda
and 15 in Chachalacas because hotels were generally small (Figure 2).
Frequency of different price intervals (USD/2016) in the three study sites. (BR) Boca del Río,
(CE) Costa Esmeralda, (CH) Chachalacas.
The tree classiﬁcation models (Figure 3) explained an average of 93% of the total deviance in the
mean cost of a room (Figure 3a), and revealed that the number of amenities was the variable most
widely correlated with the average cost of a room. A room in hotels with less than ﬁve amenities
(bar A—$34.4 USD) was, on average, 53% cheaper than a room in hotels offering between ﬁve and
six amenities (bar B—$72.9 USD). In hotels with less than seven amenities (Figure 3a, left side of the
tree chart), a room ($45.4 USD) cost on average 69.4% less than in hotels with seven or more amenities
($148.7 USD, Figure 3a, right side of the tree chart). Among the hotels with seven or more amenities,
the cost of a room was deﬁned by the size of the hotel. In the largest hotels, with an average of
170 rooms (bar D—$222.9 USD), the mean cost of a room was 96% higher than in smaller hotels with
an average of 47 rooms (bar C—$114.5 USD). The analyses of hotel prices that excluded number of
amenities (Figure 3b) showed that the hotels located in Boca del Río differed signiﬁcantly from those
grouped in Costa Esmeralda and Chachalacas. The ﬁrst group comprises hotels located in Boca del
Río (Figure 3b, right side of the tree chart), where an increase of $18.8 USD/2016 (bar D) was found,
which was associated to non-ecosystem amenities. In the second group (ﬁrst node on the left part of the
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 8 of 15
tree chart), in which coincide hotels from Costa Esmeralda and Chachalacas, the location of the hotel
was used to distinguish between those close to and those distant from the beach. For those that were
distant, the cost per ecosystem amenity was $11 USD/2016 (bar A). The groups of hotels that were
near the beach were further subdivided, this time as a function of the presence or absence of an ocean
view (second node on the right side of the tree chart). This showed that hotel prices were higher when
rooms had an ocean view and were near the beach, which resulted in an increment of non-ecosystem
amenity of $17.6 USD/2016 (bar B). This contrasts with those with no ocean view, where the increased
cost due to non-ecosystem amenities was $11.4 USD/2016 (bar C). In brief, this analysis shows that:
(a) hotel prices are determined, mostly, by the investment in infrastructure, such as amenities and
number of rooms; (b) mean hotel prices are higher in Boca del Rio; however, (c) prices in hotels in
Chachalacas and Costa Esmeralda can be as high as those in Boca del Río when they are located at the
beach and have an ocean view (Figure 3b, bar B).
Overall, our analysis revealed that there were signiﬁcant differences between study sites in terms
of mean cost per room (X
= 88.3, d.f. = 2, p< 0.001). The most expensive zone was Boca del Río, which
was 1.54 times more expensive than Costa Esmeralda (t = 6.1, d.f. = 86, p< 0.001) and 1.97 times more
expensive than Chachalacas (t = 6.1, d.f. = 86, p< 0.001). No signiﬁcant difference was found between
Costa Esmeralda and Chachalacas (t = 1.2, d.f. = 86, p= 0.231). In addition, average prices per room in
each of the three sites increased signiﬁcantly when the hotels were near the shoreline (X
= 53.0, d.f = 3,
p< 0.001): Costa Esmeralda (t = 2.5, d.f. = 86, p= 0.013), Boca del Río (t = 4.9, d.f. = 86, p< 0.001) and
Chachalacas (t = 3.4, d.f. = 86, p< 0.001).
Tree classiﬁcation model. (
) Consensus tree of a forest of trees analysis ﬁtted on the average
cost of hotel room as a function of site, landscape, location, total number of rooms, and number of
) Consensus tree of a forest of trees analysis ﬁtted to the cost per amenity as a function of
site, landscape, and location. Sites included Boca del Río (BR), Costa Esmeralda (CE), and Chachalacas
(CH). In both cases, the bars in the bottom of the panel represent the mean value
standard error of
the response variable for each of the terminal nodes (A–D) of the corresponding consensus tree.
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 9 of 15
Figure 4a shows that the prices of rooms in hotels closer to the beach were signiﬁcantly higher
than those located at a distance, in all three sites. Following the same trends, we found that in the three
study sites, hotels with access to an ocean view had higher prices than those that did not have the
beneﬁt of this ecosystem service; however, only in Costa Esmeralda were these differences statistically
signiﬁcant (Figure 4b).
Mean cost per room associated with (
) proximity to the beach, and (
) access to an ocean
view. (BR) Boca del Río, (CE) Costa Esmeralda, (CH) Chachalacas. * p≤0.05 and ** p≤0.01.
In general, we observed that hotel prices depend on several variables. First, the location
of the hotels showed that the costs per room from the most urbanized site (Boca del Río) were
signiﬁcantly higher than in the more rural and less developed settings. Although our design did not
consider the comparison between urban and non-urban areas, our results coincide with the ﬁndings of
] and Rigall-I-Torrent et al. [
], who observed higher hotel prices in urbanized beaches
in Poland and Spain, respectively. In Spain, for example, Rigall-I-Torrent et al. [
] concluded that this
is probably related to additional beneﬁts and commodities that are offered by the urban areas. Indeed,
in addition to our study, it would be interesting to assess the differences between hotels in urban
and suburban areas within the same location. This would facilitate the comparisons within the same
location for hotels with the same category, depending on the ﬁner scale quality of the surroundings
(urban vs. suburban).
On top of the role of location, the hedonic price analysis also revealed that, in addition to the size of
the hotel and the number of non-ecosystem amenities offered to the guests, room prices were generally
positively correlated to the possibility of enjoying the beauty of the landscape (in Costa Esmeralda) and
recreation on the beach (proximity to the beach, in all three sites). Interestingly, our results revealed
that in the more suburban locations (Costa Esmeralda and Chachalacas), the prices were similar to
those hotels from the more urbanized location (Boca del Río) as long as hotels had both direct access
to the beach and an ocean view. In brief, in our three study sites, if we assumed a 100% occupancy
rate in the hotels per day (which occurs during high-season vacationing periods), the approximate
extra annual income in Boca del Río, Costa Esmeralda, and Chachalacas would be $36,377, $43,652,
and $8148 USD for proximity to the beach and $208,927, $77,373, and $45,184 USD for the ocean view,
respectively. These results highlight the relevance of these attributes for hotel pricing, independently
of the location, which supports previous studies such as those by Liu et al. [
], Hamilton [
Rigall-I-Torrent et al. 
, Hunt et al. [
], Ergin et al. [
and Rangel-Buitrago et al. 
, who also
observed that proximity to natural landscapes such as beaches, parks, water bodies, and wetlands
increased property value and hotel prices.
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 10 of 15
The relevance of proximity to recreation on the beach and access to coastal aesthetics has led to
an urban growth that initially occurs along the coastlines, which is followed by the subsequent inland
]. In our study areas, we did not analyze the loss of other ecosystem services potentially
affected by the environmental degradation caused by the construction of hotels. The only services we
studied (scenic beauty and recreation) have not been affected in the vicinities of the hotels we studied.
However, it is expected that as touristic developments grow, the aesthetics and proximity to recreation
on the beach will be altered, and the natural elements that were initially of interest to tourists will
either be lost or diminished [
]. For future analysis, quality of scenic view (from top grade to poor
scenery) must be analyzed to understand the most important physical and human parameters of beach
quality. For example, Williams et al. [
] observed that the ﬁnest coastal scenery was found in remote
natural areas whilst urban scored the poorest classiﬁcations for these parameters.
Given the likelihood that tourism will become one of the largest sectors in the world trade economy,
the potential contribution of tourism to sustainable development is substantial [
], and thus needs
to be considered carefully. Indeed, human encroachment on the coast is a global phenomenon [
with population densities three times higher than inland [
], and it has generated a strong and
intense degradation and loss of coastal ecosystems in recent decades. This highlights the dilemma
of how to promote the very socio-economically relevant activities of sun, sea, and sand tourism,
while also maintaining additional ecosystem services, such as coastal protection, which are important
both for touristic activities and for society in general. When planning and management support the
conservation and proper use of natural ecosystems and different ecosystem services, the sustainable
development of the coasts is promoted. In the next section, we discuss different alternatives that could
be helpful in this regard, and that would assist with the protection, management, and development of
coastal areas [31,50].
Density of hotels—The sustainable development of the coasts needs to include the conservation
of shoreline dynamics and biodiversity, while socio-economic growth is promoted. Thus, it is
highly relevant to consider the consequences that different densities of construction have on
shoreline dynamics, landscape aesthetics, and beach recreation. In our study sites, the lower
hotel densities in Costa Esmeralda and Chachalacas and a higher percentage of natural elements
in the landscape allow the possibility for better planning. Thus, a sustainable socio-economic
growth of these coastal zones (and others) should maintain the dynamic functioning of the
beaches and dunes, while preserving ecosystem services such as landscape aesthetics, recreation,
and shoreline protection. In this sense, recent studies have demonstrated that low-density tourism
can be compatible with the preservation of beach and dune vegetation [
]. Ideally, an optimum
density of hotels and infrastructure must be found for each location so that the appreciation
of the landscape aesthetics is available while economic beneﬁts are still generated. However,
a controlled development does not imply that all coasts should be developed, as it is necessary to
leave space for nature conservation.
Proximity to the ocean—Our results and those of other authors (for example, [
] Liu et al.,
2010, Onofri and Nunes, 2013) indicate that proximity to the ocean is an element of great value
because of the implied proximity to the recreational activities offered on the beaches. However,
the presence of urban and touristic development on the coast generates two important problems.
Firstly, the combination of increasing sea levels with coastal urbanization leads to the phenomenon
known as coastal squeeze [
]. When coastal squeeze occurs, the infrastructure impedes the inland
migration of the natural ecosystems as a response to rising sea levels. In this way, these systems are
threatened and the risk of loss is very high [
]. Secondly, when infrastructure is located too close
to the ocean, the population is at increasing risk. In fact, extreme hydro-meteorological events such
as hurricanes, cyclones, and tropical storms are considered amongst the most damaging disasters
which, from 1900 to 2017, have cost over 1200 billion USD in property damage, 1,000,000 human
lives, and affected more than 1 billion people (EM-DAT 2017).
Sustainability 2018,10, 1012 11 of 15
In this sense, in previous studies performed in South Carolina, Pompe and Rinehart [
] found that
wide beaches are more valued for their protective function against storms than for their recreational
value. Likewise, erosion along the length of the beach can cause economic losses, as demonstrated by
Parsons and Powel [
] on the coast of Delaware, where the value of properties closest to the coastline
declined due to erosion of the beach. More recently, following the impact of Superstorm Sandy,
and given the stark contrasts between coastal areas in New Jersey that were and were not protected
by dunes, construction of coastal artiﬁcial dunes along the New Jersey coast is now mandatory [
Furthermore, different studies have demonstrated that natural ecosystems help protect the coasts
against ﬂooding and erosion after the impact of storms [
]. Therefore, to achieve a sustainable
coastal tourism, it is important to consider a re-analysis of the optimal distance from the beach for the
construction of hotels and cities, in such a way that neither landscape aesthetics nor coastal protection
is compromised. This is particularly necessary in countries like Mexico where every year, all the coasts
are exposed to hurricane hits.
We are fully aware that our surveys are not recent (ten years) and this can potentially generate
some problems. First, because of inﬂation, prices have certainly varied. To solve this issue, we adjusted
prices over the years, considering inﬂation rates. Secondly, it is possible that tourist preferences
may have changed signiﬁcantly over time. Certainly, enjoyment and relaxation based on sun, sea,
and sand still remain the basis of coastal tourism, although tourists may also seek now additional
conditions such as marine and coastal recreational activities, excellent facilities, and cultural attributes,
among others. Although this is true, tourist development in the study areas only has changed
in terms of a relatively larger number of hotels and restaurants, but the general conditions have
remained unchanged. The databases from the Ministry of Tourism [
] show that from 2007 to 2016,
the number of hotels increased by 24% in Boca del Río, 17 in Costa Esmeralda, and 60% in Chachalacas.
Nevertheless, there are no new marinas; cultural assets (nearby pyramids) are still being visited
by tourists, and the dunes on Chachalacas are still being enjoyed by tourists. In this sense, it was
interesting to note that the extensive urban growth observed in Chachalacas occurred along the coast,
with all the new hotels located at the beach (Martínez et al., 2017). This is evidence of the ongoing
preference for an ocean view and the proximity to the beach.
An ocean view and proximity to the beach are environmental amenities for which hotels charge
and tourists are willing to pay. This is how sea, sand, and sun tourism has grown in many countries,
including Mexico [
], and the immediate beneﬁts are clear. Indeed, coastal development and tourism
are strongly dependent on the surrounding environment from which tourists ﬁnd recreation and
enjoyment of the scenery, yielding millions of dollars in proﬁts [
]. Thus, if coastal countries want to
increase their tourist-derived economic proﬁts, it is critical that coastal development takes place in
optimal and sustainable conditions: that tourists receive what they seek, and that the environment
and coastal ecosystems are preserved, so that the tourist industry is sustained and, additionally,
the vulnerability and ﬂood risk in coastal populations is reduced.
GMG is grateful to Robert Costanza for his advice and hospitality at the University of
Vermont, USA. Thanks are also due to K. MacMillan for his help translating the manuscript into English.
We thank the reviewers for their valuable comments that helped improve the paper. This study was funded by
FOMIX-Veracruz CONACYT (37009).
Gabriela Mendoza-González and M. Luisa Martínez conceived the idea, designed the work
and mainly wrote the paper. Gabriela Mendoza-González, acquired the data. Octavio Perez-Maqueo, Roger Guevara
and Alan Howard analyzed and interpreted the data and results. Cristina Garza-Lagler, contributed to the analysis
of data and participated with proof-reading the manuscript.
Conﬂicts of Interest: The authors declare no conﬂict of interest.
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