It may be a “developing” country (although I never liked the term), but did you know that Costa Rica developed the concept of carbon credits?! Pretty innovative for such a small country with such limited financial resources! Costa Rica continues to be an innovative leader in the area of sustainable tourism and ecotourism. The title of the Second International Conference hosted in San Jose, Costa Rica earlier this month says it all! Planet, People, Peace…
For the second time, CANAECO the Ecotourism Chamber of Costa Rica, hosted the International Conference: Planet, People, Peace from November 1 to 3, 2010 in San Jos?, Costa Rica. In efforts to promote the country’s model of sustainable tourism and learn from experts around the world, the Conference attracted speakers from:
Kenya, such as Joseph Ole Shuel, the Director of II N’gwesi Masai Community Lodge,
USA, such as Alex Major, the Founder and Executive Director of the Green Flight Foundation; and Erika Harms, the Senior Advisor on Tourism at the United Nations Foundation,
Canada, such as Deidre Campbell, the CEO of the Tartan Group,
England, such as Richard Denman, the Certification expert appointed for the World Ecotourism Summit by the World Tourism Organization and UNEP,
Guatemala, such as Oscar Cac from the AK Tenamit Indigenous Community development Organization,
…and oh so many more!
Others, like Hitesh Mehta (a landscape architect and world designer of ecolodges), were effectively mingling with unsuspecting participants, attending companies, organizations, and professionals, who may be unaware of the “star factor” that they may discover in stopping to chat or sharing a meal. That was the wonderful aspect of this conference! Networking with international experts, indigenous community members, and business professionals was never so effortless and real. I mean you could really share your passion and talk about real issues… maybe because the Costa Rican culture provided the perfect backdrop of friendly atmosphere to an otherwise professional event. Where else do you see professionals kiss and hug when accepting a gift on the stage?!
The format and organization of the conference encouraged an active participation and exploration, including the option of translation for English speakers like myself. Guest speakers and discussion panels on the stage were joined by interesting inquires and comments from the floor, while the stands outside of the conference room continually generated a buzz of excitement.
Coming out of this significant event and having made so many wonderful and important connections, I realised on a deeper level the achievement in sustainable tourism by this little brave country. Costa Rica has been both a pioneer and an innovator and this is why it is recognized by the world as the leader in sustainable tourism. This important intrinsic aspect is ingrained in the country’s culture, government and policies, and eagerly embraced by businesses that love and cherish their little piece of paradise and the pure life (pura vida) that it offers. This is very smart of Costa Rica, because tourists continue to increase their concern about the natural environment and they are consistently choosing tourist destinations using these models of sustainability. As a result, the conference reinforced the innovative Costa Rican model, creating a responsible destination where tourists can contribute to solutions and sustainable tourism.
The next step for Costa Rica? The country may be reinventing itself yet again by changing the seal from Sustainable Tourism to Carbon Neutral, thanks to the Costa Rican national airline Nature Air, the only fully sustainable airline, among others. And perhaps in the near future the country will even become “carbon negative” – another first for Costa Rica!