In 2019, Costa Rica was named “Champion of the Earth” by the United Nations for its direct role in protecting nature and fighting climate change. The country, which is home to just over 5 million residents, was already known as a world leader in sustainability for putting environmental concerns at the forefront of its political and economic policies.
Over 98% of Costa Rica’s energy has come from renewable sources since 2014 (in 2017, the country ran a full 300 days solely on renewable power) and 70% of all public transport is expected to turn electric by 2035. Through a combination of protected areas, ecosystem services programs, and ecotourism, Costa Rica has successfully restored its forest cover from 26% in 1983 to over 52% in 2021 — proving to the rest of the world that reversing deforestation is possible with the right approach.
What Sets Costa Rica Apart?
Central America and the rest of the tropics are full of rich biodiversity and thriving tourism industries, so what exactly sets Costa Rica’s approach to sustainable tourism apart?
“Our sustainable tourism model has allowed us to seek and attract niche groups of travelers that recognize our differences and the quality of experiences in the country,” Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura Sancho tells Treehugger. “The key to success has been to target a demand that can adapt to the conditions the country has to offer.”
The country contains more than 6% of the world’s biodiversity despite covering only about 0.03% of the surface of the globe. Housing so much biological variety doesn’t just make Costa Rica a dream location for nature lovers, it also makes the country especially vulnerable to climate change.
“Despite being a small developing country, Costa Rica has decades of sustainable tourism efforts underway,” says Segura Sancho. “Our work involves the efforts of individuals and organizations throughout Costa Rica’s public and private sector and demonstrates a unified commitment to protecting not only our environment and economy, but that of the world.”
The country’s tourism model was developed with three primary factors in mind: sustainability, innovation, and inclusiveness. Costa Rica’s tourist attractions focus on activities that respect the environment and offer travelers opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to conservation and cultural heritage.
This is an excerpt from an article by Katherine Gallagher, originally published by Treehugger.