Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica
Sustainable tourism in Costa Rica; one that is both healthy and purposeful. I had heard much about the eco friendly Pura Vida Life in this Central American country. Now was my opportunity see the words in action. The last 40 years has seen tourism grow from 189 million people traveling the planet to over one billion. That is an astounding number. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 1.8 billion. What can we learn from examples around the planet?
“the world can and must harness the power of tourism as we arrive to carry out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The International Year of Sustainable Tourism is a crucial moment to make this important sector a force for good”.
H.E.Antonio Guterres, Secretary General, United Nations
With that in mind, I arrived in Costa Rica for the Sixth International Conference on Sustainable Tourism held in San Jose. Themed Planet, People and Peace, P3, it brought together experts from around the globe to discuss the success and failure in different countries as well as future initiatives that could be put in place to meet the challenges global tourism will present.
The Blue Morpho butterfly was front and center as a symbol of not just the conference, but a representation of sustainable tourism in Costa Rica. 10% of the world’s species of butterflies are found in Costa Rica’s biodiverse habitat. Although the creature has a short life cycle, it quickly tastes all the flavors of the earth, never forgetting where it comes from. Native Americans believe we all have the butterfly inside, when one part is moved, something happens to the other. Cause and effect. I am Mariposa. I am people, planet and peace.
The conference was structured around four themes centered around the natural elements of the The Earth. How can tourism, one of the largest sectors of the world economy contribute to sustainable development?
- The Fire theme explored the sharing economy and focused on how destinations can learn from the downside of over tourism. Is quantity or the quality of tourists where you want to put your energy. Cancun and Barcelona were prime examples of the harmful effects mass tourism can have. The sharing economy plays a huge role in how all of this plays out.
- The Water theme focused attention on new market trends and how the tourism industry evolves. Shannon Stowell, president of ATTA spoke of the trend for authentic experiences and how to involve the local community to make them successful. Responsible tourism can be a positive tool for combating poverty.
- Climate change was addressed by the Air theme. Experts from Costa Rica and Mexico shared scenarios about how it affects tourism and best practices for mitigation.
After the conference the group of international journalists traveled to the eastern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and enjoyed great food and ecotourism experiences. We were quite fortunate, as the recent hurricane had left a wake of devastation on the Pacific side of the country. One more reminder of the importance of responsible development by the shore and the effects of a climate being changed by human behavior.
Being on a press trip is always an adventure and this one was no exception. Meeting experts in the world of sustainable tourism was thrilling and educational; getting a taste of Costa Rica’s charms only left me wanting more of Pura Vida Life.
Disclosure: I was honored to be the guest of Visit Costa Rica and Planet, People, Peace for this experience.