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A sustainable sector

Article - September 13, 2011
The Minister of Tourism discusses what direction the country’s most sustainable sector is taking
What is your vision of the tourism sector in Costa Rica? What is it that makes this destination so special and desirable?

We know that Costa Rica is blessed with exquisite natural beauty and extraordinary biodiversity. Although the country only takes up .001% of the earth’s surface, we’ve got 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Businesspeople here know how to protect our wealth and innovate in order to continue down the path of sustainable development. This sustainable tourism model is what tourists admire and continue to consciously choose.

Our most typical expression ‘Pura Vida’ [pure life] reflects the friendly character of our people and our commitment to preserving the environment.

How has the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) been successful in driving this model?

Sustainability is the differentiating element in Costa Rica as a tourism destination. This concept goes further than just protecting the environment; it also involves social and economic aspects. From this point of view, we’ve worked to ensure the national tourism offer is varied and sustainable, that it includes niches such as adventure, weddings, and honeymoons. More recently, we’ve been building convention centers and targeting medical tourism, taking full advantage of the global prestige our national health system enjoys.  

What are the major benefits of sustainable tourism in terms of the country’s socioeconomic development?

Sustainable tourism has contributed to the socioeconomic development from several angles; the main one is that it’s generated a new vision among Costa Rican entrepreneurs to make the best use of our natural resources. Parallel to this, it’s contributed to improving the relation between the tourism projects and the surrounding communities, from both a social and an economic point of view, as it’s helped raise the quality of life of these families. Plus, since private enterprise began believing in sustainability, it firmly opposes all types of social deterioration. All of these efforts in the tourism sector have helped lower the poverty index. This is yet another reason why we bring more sustainable tourism projects. Costa Rica and the world would be a better place if all sectors emulated the tourism sector.

What percentage of tourists that visit Costa Rica go for the nature?

Our studies reflect that close to 65% of those who came to Costa Rica by air between 2004 and 2009 came with our natural resources in mind. The main things they take advantage of are the biodiversity, forest hikes, bird watching, flora and fauna, and the volcanoes.