With the largest number of government certified eco-tourism businesses, its no wonder Costa Rica is Latin America’s leader in sustainable tourism. The ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Institute) has developed a Sustainability Certification Program (CST), which encourages tour operators and hotels to adhere to strict environmental and social regulations and to earn the highest level of sustainability certification awarded by the government.
“The program of Certification for Sustainable Tourism of the Costa Rican Tourist Board is an excellent tool to assist in the sustainable development of the country.”
~ Alvaro Ugalde, Founder of the Costa Rican National Parks System
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The system is focused on encouraging businesses to operate and use natural resources in a sustainable fashion, and to encourage the healthy development of the surrounding communities. Not only does it measure turnover rates and employment numbers of the local people, but it looks at how much responsibility is taken by the company as they manage natural, cultural and social resources. The program is intended to balance these basic elements on a local and a national level.
Both tourism and non-tourism related organizations are encouraged to take a pro-active stance and to abstain from destroying natural, social and cultural resources. These are the main factors contributing to Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity and healthy society, and without them, the country would lose its unique and inviting qualities.
The rating system follows these important parameters:
1. Physical-Biological Parameters: Evaluates the interaction between the company and the surrounding habitat including the presence of gardens and natural areas, and protection of the native flora and fauna
2. Hotel Facilities: Evaluates the management policies and the operation systems within the company, its water and energy use, waste management and employee training.
3. Customers: Evaluates the interaction of the company with its clients in terms of how much it allows and invites them to be active contributors to the company’s policies of sustainability.
4. Socio-Economic Environment: Evaluates the interaction of the company with local communities and the population in general.
Plus, all establishments are encouraged to adopt eco-friendly programs for long term improvement:
1. Recycling programs
2. Proper disposal and treatment of waste
3. Implement water and energy saving systems
4. Conserve forests and surrounding green spaces
5. Contribute to reforestation
6. To work with neighboring communities to improve their way of life CST-Ranking-System
The rating system is on a scale of 0 to 5. If a business scores a 1, that means that they have taken the first step towards sustainability and will be re-evaluated later for progress. A level 5 signifies that the establishment is working at the highest level of sustainability.
How does all of this affect you, the consumer?
The price difference is usually negligible between hotels and other businesses that are certified and ones that are not. We encourage you to take a stance and choose a sustainable hotel or tour operator for your next visit to Costa Rica, this way more and more businesses will be encouraged to join in and start working for a more eco-friendly future. Contact us to learn more.
Change is a slow process but with the CST program in place, many Costa Rican companies are working hard to make a significant difference by preserving the natural environment and improving the local communities.
Note: The National Accreditation Commission is comprised of the Costa Rica Tourism Institute, the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, the National Institute of Biodiversity, the University of Costa Rica, the Central American Institute of Business Administration, the National Tourism Chamber, the Earth Council and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.