Friday, June 20, 2014

Sustainable ecotourism

People travel to Costa Rica for different reasons (bird watching, volunteering, seeing wildlife and/or the diversity of flora, and so forth), but what is the point of traveling to a foreign country and consuming only Western-style foods, staying in hotels with the exact amenities one could find at home, and maybe seeing a few parks or tourist spots while away? Americans or other foreigners run many of these large hotels and resorts, tourists come and spend their money, happy to have hot showers and air conditioning, but Costa Ricans don’t see much of that money. 

This beautiful art is made from repurposed tires!
Staying at hotels, eating at restaurants, using tour companies all owned and run by local people gives back to the country. Yes, this involves a little research on the tourist’s part. Giving money back to the beautiful country one visits is a much better practice then simply spending foreign money on Costa Rican experiences while that money goes to more foreigners.  You can support the local economy by choosing to have dinner at a restaurant owned and run by Costa Ricans rather than the familiar Subway chain you saw advertised on a billboard or by buying souvenirs from local artists who will benefit from your money rather than mass, factory produced items. Besides, why come to Costa Rica if you just want to eat familiar foods? Experience the culture and learn what “Costa Rican food” or “comida typico” means! Buying souvenirs from local artists means that no one else will have a painting or a glass identical to the one you bought. There are benefits to the country you’re visiting and benefits to you as a tourist.

We travel through Costa Rica and other countries and see that their living standards may be substantially different than ours. Travelling sustainably is about ensuring the future of locals for an extended period of time (generations later). It’s about practices that will allow adults to run businesses and provide money for their families and for their children after them to do the same. In many instances, it’s about travelling as “green” as possible as well. Walking instead of taking a two minute taxi ride, choosing mass transport rather than taking a car, bringing biodegradable soaps and shampoos, picking up trash you see on the beach, staying on paths in the forest rather than trampling new trails, and so forth are all ways of minimizing your impact.