on better ecotourism practices
“En Osa […] venían gente con una conciencia ecologista […] de conservar el bosque [...] contratando gente local. Ahí había mejoramiento de calidad de vida.”
Felipe describes modern investor’s strategies from the island of Osa in the southwest of Costa Rica and Rio Peribaye in the Refugio de Vida Silvestre la Marta. In Guanacaste, foreign investors came to buy the land from the local farmers to very cheap prices that would later lead the farmers into a dependency with the foreign investors and obligate them to work in low-paid jobs in the hotel sector. In Osa and Peribaye, tourism companies came to buy their products from local businesses, trained locals as guides and thereby caused an improvement of the living standard in the communities.
4. Better distribution of profits
"Los niveles de desigualdad en Costa Rica se han incrementado desde la década de los noventas y los índices de pobreza se han estancado a pesar del crecimiento económico en general y desempeño turístico en particular" (Mok 30).
Local populations still do not always benefit from touristic practices in their area. Although the number of tourists is continually rising and the share of income generated from tourism on the total GDP is augmenting, local communities still feel like the benefit only profits a small group or foreign investors. This also applies to indigenous populations. To reduce the different income share, a better combination of local communities’ personal, cultural and material resources and touristic company’s activities is needed (Budowski 8). If hotel chains decide to buy their products from adjacent communities, train locals as guides, sponsor the community development and refuse to exploit the residents in low paid jobs, change can be achieved. To effectively direct tourism company’s policies laws enforcing the collaboration with local businesses must be implemented. In the following clip, Felipe gives an example that has the potential to solve the problem of unequal distribution of profits if legislated and applied extensively.
3. Establishment of Code of Ethics
Besides better planning strategies and the revision of promotional strategies, a claim for a code of ethics in the tourism industry is pronounced in literature. This code of ethics should include guidelines for both the tourists and touristic companies and institutions that offer their services to the tourist. The code should include concrete indications, f. ex. indications on the right behavior in Protected Areas, Construction Regulations for Hotels, etc. (Budowski 9). As mentioned on the "Shotcomings"-Page animal behavior has been altered due to the behavior of the tourists. A code of ethics can prevent the changes in animal behavior.
“Mejorar algo bueno no es fácil, es más fácil mejorar algo malo. Este es el caso del ecoturismo” (López, Oña 21).
Like López and Oña explain, to improve something that is already good is not easy. After having examined the most important achievements and challenges of Ecotourism in Costa Rica, we will try in the following to give some recommendations on the future of ecotourism in Costa Rica. We will look at five prevalent recommendations.
1. Revision of Planning
Even if the number of tourists, especially when looking at the zones on the Pacific, have risen significantly, there are still rural zones with low indexes of human development, especially in the regions of the Pacific North and Pacific South. To irradiate the profits generated from the tourism industry equally across the country, a better distribution of tourists is needed. For this, better infrastructure and touristic attractions are needed in the less developed parts of the country, among these, transportation services, accommodation, nutrition, security, adornment, etc. (Mok 30).
Furthermore, the governmental distribution of finances needs to be revised. Currently, finances that have been generated in the tourism industry only get reinvested partly (Budowski 9). In the case of the National Parks, funds need to be distributed per the size and income generated by each of the individual Parks, to secure sufficient personnel and material capacities to secure their maintencance. Currently, all National Parks receive the same amount of finances, regardless of their size or generated income.
To support a better distribution of tourists and increase awareness of the benefits of ecotourism on Costa Rica, promotional practices should be revised. To reach a more balanced distribution of tourists, campaigns should promote the differences and singularities in the Costa Rican landscapes and promote the singularity of each touristic area. During the last years, the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism has promoted a “green” Costa Rica, vividly displaying the rich wildlife and nature to its international audience and succeeded in increasing the number of visitors each year (Mok 30). To raise awareness of the beneficial effects of ecotourism on environmental protection, economic and social development, the media should stress even more, what ecotourism is and what its positive impacts are. In this way, a wide audience is educated and awareness of responsible traveling is raised. Furthermore, this should include the local Costa Rican audience to raise the local demand for ecotourism (Lopez, Oña 25).
2. Revision of Promotional Strategies
Source: Knudsen, Ingrid
“El problema es cuando se usan
esas imágenes de naturaleza para atraer
a los turistas no a proyectos ecoturísticos, sino a grandes imperios hoteleros que han drenado manglares, destruido ecosistemas, privatizado playas, que amenazan con construir marinas y aeropuertos en los bosques y costas del país. Entonces esa naturaleza que ellos destruyen es precisamente la que usan para
atraer visitantes . . .”
(López García 11)
Felipe gives some practical recommendation on where to best spend a vacation when traveling to Costa Rica. One should try to support local communities by staying there instead of spending the vacation in big hotel resorts where the money will not stay in the community and lead to an improvement of the local infrastructure.
Felipe is giving us some insight about the elaboration of a code of ethics by his organization and the Costa Rican government. This code of ethics aims to educate both tour operators and tourists at National Parks about the correct behavior towards animals and nature. He gives the example of putting up signs with big pictures on it to keep tourists and tour operators from feeding the animals. Felipe explains that many tour operators, to attract as many animals as possible, feed them. This leads to unnatural animal behavior, drawing the animals each time closer to the tourists and making them depend entirely on their feeding. Additionally, the artificial separation of forests by the exceedingly fast growth of tourist frequency made the parks get separated, animal populations no longer mix and will therefore develop mutations and diseases, caused by endogmy. Read more on Impacts on Animals here.