Costa Rica’s top tourist attraction: the environment

A small country with strong values, Costa Rica’s approach to tourism is taking the welfare of both its people and its visitors into account.

Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948. Since then its resources and energy have been channeled into improving the environment and making the nation hospitable to wildlife, the Indigenous population and tourists.

A rainforested Central American country with Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, Costa Rica’s capital San José is home to a number of cultural institutions such as the renowned jade and gold museums. But the city is probably best-known for its forests, beaches, volcanoes and wildlife, all of which the authorities are determined to protect. Costa Rica also aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Minister for tourism María Amalia Revelo, gave the Essential Costa Rica presentation at ITB Berlin, pointing out that the introduction of direct flights from Europe back in 2015 has boosted the country’s tourism. Germans make up the majority of visitors from Europe, a region responsible for 10% of the country’s tourism market.

To strengthen the nation’s intention to develop tourism while improving and nurturing the environment, the Costa Rica Tourism Board established the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program in 1997 and updated it in 2018.

The programme aims to promote best practices to protect the natural, cultural and social resources of the country by grading the sustainability of a tourism entity on the basis of four pillars: interaction with the environment; waste management; interaction with the client; and interaction with the community.

“Our visitors become our friends,” Revelo said. “Partly because most of our hotels and small and run by their owners.”

She added: “We have a population of five million and we welcome three million tourists each year. We know what type of tourism we do want and we know what type we don’t want. We need to underline the importance tourism has for the quality of life of our people.