We all look forward to a good vacation. That bubbly feeling you get when you first step off an airplane and realize you have nothing on the agenda except, well, to enjoy yourself! Whether you’re visiting a tropical beachside town or navigating a bustling metropolis, a vacation is something you both look forward to and enjoy.
Tourism is a thriving industry, raking in over a trillion dollars a year worldwide (Costa Rican Embassy, 2022). As with many other industries, the rise in popularity of tourism has been accompanied by a massive increase in its ecological footprint. This footprint isn’t just caused by tourist travel to destinations, but also compounded by the water and energy used upon their arrival.
What is ecotourism?
Although there are several definitions, ecotourism is usually understood to be the practice of “ethical tourism”, one that builds consideration for the welfare of local populations and the health of the environment into its infrastructure.
Studies show that most tourists suffer from a form of environmental amnesia, meaning they have little or no understanding of how nature is being transformed by their activities, or by climate change. Ecotourism has emerged as a growing trend within the international tourism industry, particularly with visitors traveling to pristine tropical environments, who are starting to realize that their presence and enjoyment of nature can also lead to its degradation.
A study published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that ecotourism has improved the quality of life of Costa Ricans living in areas close to National Parks and protected areas by 16%.
For the most part, Costa Ricans have used ecotourism in the best way possible - to preserve the land and select activities to enhance and appreciate the natural beauty and culture of the place; in exchange for help in conserving the land, citizens have been provided with economic benefits, including jobs, to supplement farming income (Edgell 2006).
So, how can you participate in ecotourism while visiting Costa Rica?
We’ve compiled some tips that you can use when planning your next getaway to Costa Rica and beyond! Even following a couple of these suggestions can help reduce your footprint on the local environment.
Book your stay at a local eco-friendly hotel. Look to book with hotels that have a track record of maintaining wildlife corridors, treating their wastewater, recycling materials and utilizing renewable energy.
Look for guided tours by locals. In countries like Costa Rica, locals can double their income by working in the tourism industry. Consider booking tours with local guides and companies, which in turn contributes to a healthier balance between people’s social and economic needs.
Bring your trash back with you, or dispose of it in designated bins. The waste management systems in rural communities are often stressed by tourism. Nosara is no exception. Please educate yourself on local recycling and trash disposal rules, or consider hauling plastics and other wastes back with you to your country of origin.
Support local conservation efforts. By this point we’re familiar with ecotourism, but have you ever heard of voluntourism? Some organizations accept volunteers for short-term projects and even have ongoing projects where you can donate hours of your time. Planning a trip to, or live in Nosara and want to make a difference? The WCA accepts both short and long-term volunteers, with many opportunities to contribute to our work depending on your interests. Find out more here!
Why is ecotourism important?
After the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers from around the world have realized the importance of outdoor tourism and connecting with nature. As a result, ecotourism has become a highly-desirable option for conscious travelers seeking to participate in conservation while enjoying the surrounding biodiversity.
Ecotourism has been shown to encourage conservation efforts on an individual level.
Like many conservation policies both in Costa Rica and abroad, there’s a gap between local and national uptake. It’s important for tourists, travel agencies, tour operators and hotels to do their part to support the region’s biodiversity and promote low environmental impact to the benefit of local communities.
The Wildlife Conservation Association’s tours are unique in that they directly contribute to a healthier and more resilient local economy. All tours are led by local guides and comply with policies meant to protect both the surrounding environment. In addition, our Water Quality and Biodiversity Programs ensures that the community always has the most pertinent information in order to make informed decisions that protect the environment.
You might also consider donating to our organization to help us continue our important work in Nosara that ensures future travelers can enjoy the rich flora and fauna for generations to come!
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Almeyda, A. M., Broadbent, E. N., Wyman, M. S., & Durham, W. H. (2010). Ecotourism impacts in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. International Journal of Tourism Research, 12(6), 803–819. https://doi.org/10.1002/jtr.797
Ecotourism on the rise in Latin America. TravelPulse. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2022, from https://www.travelpulse.com/news/destinations/ecotourism-on-the-rise-in-latin-america.html
Garg, A. (2022, July 6). Ecotourism in Costa Rica: What you should know. The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate. Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://ticotimes.net/2022/07/03/ecotourism-in-costa-rica-what-you-should-know
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Staff, T. (2022, March 29). Ecotourism benefits the Costa Rican economy by 16%. The Costa Rica News. Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://thecostaricanews.com/ecotourism-benefits-the-costa-rican-economy-by-16/
Withrow, B. (2021, October 9). Visiting this little country won't destroy the world. The Daily Beast. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.thedailybeast.com/costa-ricas-tourism-wants-to-save-the-planet