“Ecotourism is the heart of Costa Rica’s tourism sector,” says Alejandro Castro Alfaro, Director of Marketing for the Costa Rica Tourism Board. “The country takes pride in providing unique, safe and authentic experiences for visitors of all ages.”
After just a few hours in the country, this is abundantly clear. If you weren’t pre-sold on Costa Rica’s unique environmentally conscious tourism offering before you arrived, then you will certainly not remain indifferent to it once you’ve seen it firsthand.
Here’s a quartet of thought-provoking considerations to drive the point home early:
- 26 percent of the land has been set aside for conservation as national parks, biological reserves, wildlife refuges and protected areas;
- although it occupies only 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface (an area slightly smaller than Lake Michigan in the USA), Costa Rica is home to nearly 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity (more than 500,000 species!), a full 3 percent just within the borders of one national park (Corcovado);
- in 2015, Costa Rica claims to have generated 99 percent of its electricity using renewable fuel sources and that 285 days were entirely free of fossil fuel;
- Costa Ricans are commonly called the happiest people on earth, routinely scoring at the very top of the Happy Planet Index.
“Sustainability has always played a big role within Costa Rica, and it naturally permeates the tourism industry,” sums up Erick Nassar, Marketing Manager of Namu Travel Group, which operates as Costa Rican Vacations in Costa Rica. “It’s not just a trend to position within a niche.”
Certification for Sustainable Tourism
Given the country’s profound commitment to best environmental practices, in 1997 the Costa Rica Tourism Board introduced a certification program created to help consumers differentiate tourism businesses based on the degree to which they comply with a sustainable model of natural, cultural, social and economic resource management. Called the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program, it consists of five levels of sustainable tourism achievement – measured in green leaves – five being the maximum when a company truly stands out for its sustainability practices.
“Visitors who choose to visit CST-designated tourism companies such as hotels, tour operators and car-rental companies support businesses that take proactive measures to avoid the negative impacts on the environment, culture and society,” continues Mr. Alfaro of the Costa Rica Tourism Board. “The CST program emphasizes the need to use recycled, reusable and natural products, in addition to using devices for energy and water saving, waste management, information and others, which opens the door to a new market for environmentally and socially friendly products. The goal of the program is to develop a synergy among different economic sectors and to achieve an overall positive balance in terms of sustainability.”
Sustainable Family Travel in Costa Rica
The importance of sustainable travel is no different when it comes to family travel. “A family vacation in Costa Rica is a way to raise awareness about sustainability for the whole family,” says Ana María Baldioceda, Marketing & Sales Manager for the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels & Lodges. “We find that especially children are really open to the concept of nature conservation and hiking through a primary rainforest is a life-changing experience.”
Cayuga isn’t alone in having identified Costa Rica’s special standing when it comes to family travel. “Lush and exotic, Costa Rica is a thrilling spot for a family vacation,” reads Ciao Bambino!. It “continually amazes us,” confirms Family Vacation Critic. It “is officially a hot spot for family travel… every kid’s dream come true,” slam dunks Trekaroo.
And it really does live up to the hype. It’s got an astonishing diversity of plants and animals, changing landscapes — beaches, rainforests, rugged mountains and volcanoes — access to nature, well-established sports and adventure opportunities, quality accommodation at all budget levels, reliable transport and, generally speaking, it is safety. What could be better for moms, dads, juniors and grands traveling in small groups or large ones in search of memorable experiences?
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