Road To SuccessMaking a difference in someone’s life can be as simple as going on vacation, thanks to Erika Garcia, President and founder of the boutique travel agency, Yucatan Holidays, and CEO of Marketing for Sunset Group and Premier Cancun Vacations. Through their certificate programs, which offers couples and families 5 day / 4 night stays at various hotels throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya, for around $200, they are able to donate a small percentage of the monies earned to charitable foundations. Credit: Edgardo Contreras.

By working with those run by celebrities, most notably Mexican football player Rafa Marquez and singer Shakira, Garcia recognized an opportunity to utilize these leader’s notoriety to increase awareness not only about their resorts, but to also draw a larger awareness and benefit to the social work that’s happening as a result of working together. Garcia and her team have aligned themselves with over 20 high-profile foundations and non-profits throughout Mexico and Latin America, with the ones attached to household names being the most successful to date. Garcia explains, “We wanted to create ‘Vacations with a Cause’ because when a traveler visits Cancun they will simultaneously be helping and supporting Mexican children.” The earnings contribute to education, developing sports programs and feeding children in need especially in the states of Jalisco and Michoacan.

Having spent years working in hotels and resorts, Garcia took her experience and developed a strategy to make each traveler’s trip booked with Yucatan Holidays is like having your own personal concierge as they personally serve each and every reservation, from airport pickup to checkout. This attention to detail, all while giving back to those in need, has gained the regard of international charities. Through her various companies Garcia has been able to donate vacation certificates to charity auctions throughout the United States and Canada, which promotes the Sunset Group exquisite properties in the Riviera Maya including Ocean Spa Hotel, Laguna Suites Golf and Spa Hotel as well as the sustainable resort, spa and nature park, Hacienda Tres Rios. Garcia’s efforts, “Have succeeded in sending thousands of tourists to local destinations in the Cancun and Riviera Maya region of Mexico,” thus promoting their properties, as well as offering an incentive to drive more donations to the foundations they have partnered with including a few in Brazil and Colombia, like Shakira’s foundation called Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet).

Garcia is probably most proud of her work with Shakira’s non-profit as it has been extremely rewarding to see the opportunities they’ve been able to create for low-income children including providing quality public education and improving and constructing schools. These efforts have touched the lives of more than 67,000 children, youths and adults, and have encouraged Garcia to look for new philanthropy opportunities.

Building on the enthusiasm in Colombia is the soon-to-be-launched collaboration with the Juan Felipe Escobar Foundation. Leading the way in social impact, they are drastically improving the lives of children and adolescents living in poverty in Cartagena by providing comprehensive health care, as well as psychological and emotional care. There’s also the Mi Sangre (My Blood) foundation, founded by Colombian recording artist, Juanes, which promotes peace through creativity and art.

In Brazil, Sunset World continues to make strides in impoverished children’s lives through Instituto Ayrton Senna. Founded by a three-time world Formula 1 champion, they work together “to develop the potential of new generations and benefits students to become successful at school in order to be able to respond to the professional, economic, cultural and political demands of the 21st century.” Garcia sums it up as, “we’re supporting our leaders who are supporting the change in our countries.” It’s a win-win situation!

So while traveling and enjoying all that the Riviera Maya has to offer at the aforementioned hotels and resorts, a
vacation is an opportunity to help out someone less fortunate. Each with unique amenities, Sunset’s properties are sure to appease even the pickiest of vacationers. At Ocean Spa in Cancun’s famous hotel zone, you can enjoy the aromas and flavors of national Mexican dishes and drinks as well an array of international food and exotic cocktails. With a wide variety of activities, ranging from water sports (kayaking, paddle boarding, kite surfing) to yoga and Latin dancing, this beachfront property is great for adults and kids alike. Day excursions to snorkel, dive, deep-sea fish or swim with whale sharks (seasonal) are all within reach. Nightly shows are sure to entertain.

For the ultimate excursion upgrade to the sustainable resort, spa and nature park, Hacienda Tres Rios, which was named for its three winding freshwater rivers. Cutting through 300+ acres of tropical rain forests on the property, these rivers flow into ten cenotes, (or freshwater sinkholes), and under mangroves, before merging with the ocean. The area is very unique as it features three ecosystems, 120 species of plants and 90 different animals. After an afternoon outing, there are plenty of restaurants to satiate your hunger. From brick oven grilled pizzas to regional specialties the cuisine here is delicious.

So whether you’re booking your next vacation or looking for appealing gifts for an upcoming charity event, think of Yucatan Holiday’s certificate program. By investing in yourself, you are investing in others’ futures. Garcia’s ultimate goal in life is, “To solve a real problem, a social issue . . . to cut poverty of children and women without needing public policy.” Her “philanthropy with action” approach is making a difference one country at a time. Contact: Claudia de la Rosa,