everybody can contribute - Sustainable eco-tourism in costa rica
Environmental changes (un-)consciously caused by humans are a serious issue in Costa Rica just like in many other countries. Especially climate change, water scarcity and the loss of biodiversity can be observed. A few examples:
In the past, during rainy season there used to be often week-long rainfall, nowadays this is very different. Today we experience mostly short but very strong thunderstorms with extreme rainfall. Even in rainy season there are days with no rainfall at all. During dry season normally known as a season with occasional rainfall, now everything is drying out and there are regions with not a single raindrop during months. As a consequence you find dried up landscapes and there are forest fires. Fortunately there are still regions with a functioning rainforest eco-system, although even in the rainforests there is less rain now.
During dry season water rationing had to be introduced in Costa Rica. Why is that, you may wonder, being Costa Rica a country with rainforest and almost unlimited water reserves. The problem is that as a consequence of warming more and more water sources are drying up and there isn`t enough clean drinking water provided anymore. Many rivers in populated areas, just like in Europe, aren`t clean anymore, they are polluted by waste, left-overs of medicines, chemical substances from soap and cleaning products. Despite of water scarcity, in very dry areas like Guanacaste, known for its beautiful beaches, all-inclusive hotels are being constructed and become a threat for the restricted water reserves of the local population.
Loss of bio-diversity
In Costa Rica just like in other places habitats for wildlife are becoming scarce. Costa Rica is providing protection to about 25% of its territory by running national parks in an exemplary manner and this is where many species still find habitats. Nevertheless those spaces for wildlife outside the park areas are diminishing due to pineapple and palm tree plantations and cattle pasture. Since the booming export of pineapples to Europe vast areas of woods are being cut down, water is being polluted by fertilizers and that directly affects wildlife and flora.
There`s also a lot to do in the social sector
On pineapple plantations workers are paid very low wages. Some employers resist to pay social insurance. Sexual exploitation is an issue in the tourist sector we shouldn`t deny.
We can observe these changes on a daily basis and we feel obliged to act within our sector of tourism as sustainably, environmental-friendly and socially responsible as possible.
But what do we actually mean when talking about sustainable eco-tourism?
Tourism is not only affected by climate change, exploitation and the waste problem but is also to a certain extend causing these problems. Our sector depends on many factors like the weather, flora and wildlife and wild landscapes. Who wants to travel to countries where nature is being destroyed or had to give way to progress?
There is more about sustainable tourism than environmental protection. We would like to present here the well-known and approved theory called The Magic Pentagon-Pyramid of Sustainable Development.
The ground of this pyramid is the definition of objectives for a sustainable tourism, formed by five key elements: Economic welfare, customer satisfaction, cultural diversity, protection of environment and resources and individual well-being. Economic welfare is symbolized by revenue and added value. Customer satisfaction refers to meeting the diverse needs and expectations of customers. Cultural diversity is formed by cultural projects, by keeping local culture and all of its representations alive. Protection of environment and resources has to deal with biodiversity and landscape development of a region. The last pillow, though, individual well-being, refers to autonomy, cultural identity and self-realization of the visited population.
Those five elements find themselves united in the peak of the pyramid forming the substantial decision-making right for future generations.
To put it in a nutshell, tourism should be to such extend sustainable that future generations will be able to live on it healthily.
Eco-tourism in Costa Rica – what could be my contribution?
We Ticotrotter people love the beauty and the culture being unique in our home Costa Rica. As we are seeking to present you this very special country with its beauty and richness also further on in the future, we would like to inform you about a different, maybe more conscious way of travelling. Sustainable or intelligent tourism builds upon a certain awareness and sensitivity to willingly travel differently in present days and in the future.
What should be your guidelines as an intelligent tourist when choosing a tour operator and booking a trip?
Before the trip:
Think about how your trip could be a very positive incident for you and the people you are visiting and let that be the guideline to choose destination, tour operator, accommodation and other services.
Only print the most important informations, like vouchers, flight tickets and only one copy of the program for all participants.
Learn about intercultural differences.
Look out for the symbol of the green palm tree when choosing a beach hotel (this is our assessment system with regard to sustainability of the hotel)
rail & fly
Opt for the possibility to compensate CO2-emissions by donating to e.g. the organization atmosfair - www.atmosfair.de (Airline passengers make a voluntary climate protection payment based on the amount of emissions they create; atmosfair uses these contributions to develop renewable energies in countries where they hardly exist, above all in developing countries.)
During your trip
- Try to avoid waste. Many destinations don`t provide waste incineration plants or similar services. Everything ends up on a waste dump. Refill drinking bottles and don`t use plastic bags.
- Dispose your waste in containers provided for this purpose. Take used batteries back to your home country because at many destinations there is no recycling system for them.
- Show respectful interest and tolerance to the new culture.
- Act as a good example: Pick up the waste you come across on beaches and in the rainforests and dispose it.
How do we as Ticotrotter act for sustainable tourism in Costa Rica?
We care a lot about our suppliers` awareness. The three worst factors for contamination during a long-distance travel are the flight, the hotel and the transport during the tour.
That`s why we offer CO2-compensation by donating to atmosfair, we take care to approve environmental friendliness of transport operators and apply an assessment system with regard to sustainability of hotels in order to improve transparency.
The flight. The compensations for long-distance travels donated to atmosfair are invested in eco-projects all over the world. Find more information on atmosfair.de. As Costa Rican tour operator we can`t offer rail & fly. However we recommend our visitors wherever possible to travel to the airports by train or bus.
Transport operators. Ticotrotter carefully selected transport operators and car rental companies according to several aspects like the adequate disposal of
used tires and oil, the use of biodegradable cleaning products, staff training, avoiding long-time motor running during stand-still and fair treatment of staff (e.g. driving hours) and payment.
Hotels. Trottermundo has developed an assessment system to improve transparency for guests with regard to sustainability standards of a hotel. In Costa Rica the assessment system consists of palm trees, a system similar to the CST (Certification for Sustainable Tourism) using green leafs.
Do trips become more expensive because of all this?
A sustainable vacation in Costa Rica does not necessarily involve higher costs. Even with small acts we can work towards a healthier environment.
Saving paper and printer cartridges before the trip, saving petrol on the way to the airport when using public transport.
Also when planning your trip you better check out the trottermundo assessment system for hotels. Many hotels do already work sustainably and you can support this without paying more. The idea is to ensure you a unique travel experience with authentic moments at the destination and to ensure at the same time that nature and local population benefit from the trip. Wherever possible we don`t cooperate with big multinational hotel groups because it is not the country who is benefiting. Furthermore Ticotrotter supports social projects with donations, e.g. the Christmas party for Malekus tribe children, organizing a bus to transport donations to indigenous families in the Caribbean, donations for an animal shelter in San Ramon, financial support for schools and the organization of cultural events in Ciudad Colon.
You as a traveller don`t pay more but you contribute to the sustainable development of eco-tourism in Costa Rica. And that`s what marks the difference when you choose not to travel with mainstream tour operators.