By Verónica Trigueros Conejo - International Relations Student
Costa Rica is a natural paradise for tourism, which is quite accurate, in 51.100 km², the country has a 6% of the world’s biodiversity, that makes it a very interesting and appealing place to come and visit. Of course, the government, the Costa Rican tourism institute, among other institutions, have taken advantage of this factor to encourage foreigners to visit the country. It is important to remember that the impact of tourism on our economy is one of the main sources of income, and for this reason it is said that the country "sells nature" or "sells green", referring to the main qualities for which the country is visited. But "selling nature" is a good strategy for Costa Rica's development, or it can be harmful for the environment? Or is it, on the contrary, an opportunity to protect the environment?
Of course, we need to talk about politics and development. The stability of the country is a great charm for tourism along with the strong democracy Costa Rica has, which is actually ranked as the 15th strongest democracy in the world and the second in Latin América (Universität Würzburg, 2019). These factors let the country focus on sustainable development, and inclusive economic growth as well. Generally, to achieve those things, the main economic source, as it’s mentioned before, is tourism. But exploiting natural resources is not the ideal for any country, and here is when ecotourism is a viable option to protect the environment and the resources Costa Rica offers to the world.
Ecotourism allows for economic benefits while conserving land. (Mckeone, 2011). Costa Rica is one of the world leaders on ecotourism, 25% of the lands are protected by the government, but the maintenance is key to keep the areas protected, that is why the country is in need of policies that focuses specially on this situation, keeping the areas protected and conserved is a way of protecting economy as well, and not so many people think of this in that way.
I do believe that ecotourism is a great option not only for Costa Rica, but for every country in Latin America to achieve development and economic growth in sustainable ways. The region has many different natural attractions and resources that can be used to attract tourists, but again, policies are key in this aspect, and people who are in charge of making them are not aware of their importance. Strong projects going to Congress on regards of protecting the environment and enhancing sustainable development is what Costa Rica and Latin America is lacking. Policy makers should be searching and investing their time on proposing new alternatives to reactivate the economy instead of the same old ways.
On regards of the environment, the world is moving towards the Sustainable Development Goals suggested by the UN, and Costa Rica is not getting behind, it is almost a requirement for the country due to its locational advantages, and the way its image is portrayed for foreigners, with institutions such as the Promotora de Comercio Exterior (PROCOMER) using these characteristics to promote Costa Rican entrepreneurships all over the world. They created a brand called Esencial Costa Rica in which they “sell green” and all the benefits it has within, and of course some programs such as Crecimiento Verde which is a program that aims to promote productive transformation processes that improve the environmental sustainability of companies and thus their export profile (Procomer, 2021).
To answer the question suggested at the beginning of the article, I personally think that “selling nature” is beneficial for the country, and that it is a great opportunity to improve protection of the environment. It is a great option for development in the country, but political action needs to be taken. Also, it is a smart strategy since it increases the possibility of integral economic growth in the country and encourage people and the government to keep working to achieve the SDG’s given by the United Nations.
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Mckeone, E. (2011). Ecotourism in Costa Rica: Environmental Impacts and Ecotourism in Costa Rica: Environmental Impacts and Management Management. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1051&context=envstudtheses
Procomer Costa Rica. (2021). Crecimiento Verde. Procomer Costa Rica. https://www.procomer.com/exportador/programas/crecimiento-verde/
Universität Würzburg. (2020, July 9). Democracy Matrix. https://www.democracymatrix.com/