A handful of tour operators in the country joined efforts with the Rainforest Alliancethis year to show Costa Rica’s hotel industry that adopting sustainable practices is aviable way to make its businesses not only more environmentally and socially responsible,but also more economically sustainable in the long term.The cooperative effort is part of the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable PracticesImplementation Project, which offers technical assistance to small and medium-sizedhotels and tour outfitters interested in obtaining sustainability certification.Through agreements with ground tour operators Horizontes Nature Tours, ACTUAR,Simbiosis and Vesa Tours, the Rainforest Alliance is able to provide incentives totourism-service providers for reducing their negative impact on the environment andconserving the biodiversity of the areas they visit. The project is also being implementedin Belize, Guatemala and Ecuador.Through coordination with Horizontes Nature Tours, approximately 55 Costa Ricanhotels and lodges that work with the ground operator have been invited to receive trainingon “good practices” and sustainable-tourism certification. Those that comply withthe requirements of the program and are interested in learning more can become part ofthe pilot project.“With this project of the Rainforest Alliance, we have found a unique opportunityto invite our suppliers to join this effort, and to learn how to manage their businesses inharmony with the environment, while giving more opportunities to neighboring communitiesand gaining a better understanding of how sustainable tourism benefits us all,”Horizontes president Tamara Budowski said.Work on the project between Horizontes and Rainforest Alliance began with thedrafting of a contract to establish mutual commitments and roles. Once it was signed,the Rainforest Alliance began awareness seminars with Horizontes suppliers. The seminarsincluded presentations on sustainable tourism and the importance of making acommitment to it; good practices and the benefits they bring to businesses; certificationand what it comprises; and the description and dynamics of the project itself.The second phase includes training workshops that go deeper into the themes introducedin the initial seminar. The workshops conclude with an invitation to officiallyjoin the pilot project. Taking this step allows the Rainforest Alliance to inspect and providean analysis of the sustainability of the operation on site. This is followed by a planfor technical assistance that will prepare the business to seek certification in the future.For its part, the tour company has helped organize the workshops, convene its suppliersand motivate their continued participation in the project. In addition, Horizontesand the other tour companies that support the project are committed to giving priorityto the hotels and lodges that implement sustainable practices when designing travel itinerariesfor their partners and clients.For information on the Rainforest Alliance and its projects, visit www.rainforestalliance.org. For information on Horizontes Nature Tours, visit www.horizontes.com.