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Published on August 9th, 2012 | by csaylor

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Costa Rica’s Green Niche

Fresh organic meals from vegetables and fruits harvested directly on the property, water heated by solar panels and fans run by hydroelectric generators… these outstanding measures to lower non-renewable electricity consumption are becoming the norm amid the Costa Rican hotel industry.

Throughout the country, hotels and lodges have launched similar projects to develop more sustainable tourism operations. Such initiatives have aided Costa Rica to carve out what might be considered its “green niche” in the international tourism market.

“‘Going green’ has become a trend in international tourism, and Costa Rica is ahead of the curve in terms of conservation and environmental protection,” said Ronald Sanabria, vice president of sustainable tourism with Rainforest Alliance, an international conservation group. “Years ago, when tourism began to flourish, Costa Rica realized what it had here was both special and dependent on the environmental offerings. Over time, sustainable tourism went from just a buzz phrase to a certifiable movement.”

Costa Rica has a lot to offer. It’s beautiful, it’s close to large tourist markets in the U.S. and Canada, and it has a glowing outward reputation, perhaps best exemplified by the 2009 Happy Planet Index labeling Costa Rica as the “Happiest Country in the World.” Nearly 2.2 million people visited Costa Rica in 2011, a new record high, according to the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT).

But Costa Rica understands it’s not the only regional travel hotspot. Mexico,, the Caribbean islands and other Central and South American countries all offer the allure of tropical paradise, sunshine, clear waters and balmy weather.

To stand out from the crowd, Costa Rica, which is home to 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, has transformed its tourism image from simply “Pura Vida,” to a model of harmony with nature. Last decade, the ICT changed the tourism slogan to “No Artificial Ingredients” to illustrate its green movement.

“Sustainability is one of the most important themes of national tourism marketing,” said Tourism Minister Alan Flores. “We want to educate private firms on how to deal with sewage, how to implement renewable energy sources and how to encourage sustainable business models. All this will become added value for our national tourism policy, and it will be the reason why tourists will continue coming to our country in the long term.”

*Article by Adam Williams. Originally printed in the April|May 2012 edition of Nature Landings.


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