The climate change challenge

Costa Rica highlights its green credentials

Hon María Amalia Revelo Raventós, Minister of Tourism, Costa Rica, is presenting a keynote at the ITB Berlin Convention today (7 March, 4pm, Berlin CityCube Auditorium A3). Ahead of her session, we talked to her to about the themes underlying her presentation.

Almost 20 years ago, the vision of ecotourism and sustainable tourism development in Costa Rica formed the basis for the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), a standard recognised by the World Tourism Organisation, which has positioned Costa Rica as an international reference in terms of sustainability.


How is climate change going to affect tourism in the coming years?

Climate change is a tremendous challenge for the tourism industry. Even though worldwide there is a certain level of scepticism and confrontations at the technical, scientific and political level, the truth is that the increase of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is advancing the conditions for a gradual increase in global temperature. The latest global results on climate change are abundantly clear: we cannot go on as before.
Costa Rica is considered a pioneer and leading destination in the field of evaluation of its tourism companies and in the three axes of sustainability: social, environmental and economic. The sustainable tourism concept and joined vision, commitment and plans between the public and private sector has to be the framework condition for tourism development in the future.

How are lawmakers and investors changing the current framework conditions for tourism?

Lawmakers and investors play a key role in the travel industry as they are the ones to define and build the legal and operational framework necessary for growing tourism and its impacts. Current framework conditions for tourism have to be a joint vision between the public and private sector to make it successful.

Guiding the future development is not only the responsibility of the government, but also of the private tourism sector. The joint vision between the public and private sector means that a country with limited resources positions itself as a leader in sustainable tourism taking current challenges such as global warming and climate change into consideration. Both public and private sector must demonstrate a clear commitment to adapt to changing climate conditions, mitigate emissions, develop and apply new technologies in order to minimise negative impacts.

What should travel and tourism professionals around the world be doing to tackle problems in the future (as much as possible)?

First of all, travel and tourism professionals have to be aware that tourism contributes to global warming. According to UNWTO data, it is estimated that tourism is responsible for approximately 5% of global carbon emissions. Best practice initiatives from Costa Rica include carbon offset programs in order to reduce carbon footprint produced by tourism and the goal of carbon neutrality by 2021.

Governments and international organisations should incorporate tourism in the fulfillment of the commitments acquired in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The tourism sector and destinations should encourage and make investments in tourism programmes that save energy and use renewable energy. Tourists should opt for activities that respect the environment, reduce their carbon footprint, and contribute to the conservation of the natural environment and cultural heritage.

Costa Rica has developed its reputation for authentic travel experiences – a standing ultimately attributable to the model of sustainable tourism development differentiating it from other destinations. Our progress in this area goes hand in hand with a change in the behaviour and preferences of tourists. Our model for sustainable tourism development has brought together elements of environmental conservation, interaction with the local environment and the development of entrepreneurships.

How important do you see the ITB Berlin Convention as being when it comes to leading global ideas and opinions in this regard?

ITB is the world’s leading travel trade show and a very important global influencing platform and think tank for destinations. With regard to climate change, sustainability and related latest challenges the ITB Convention can provide latest study results, connect global experts and destinations to share experiences and provide not only inspiration for strategy but also concrete ways and actions in the dynamically changing travel industry.

Photo: María Amalia Revelo Raventós Minister of Tourism, Costa Rica

Hall 22b / Stand 201, 201a