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From ‘No Artificial Ingredients!’ to ‘Save the Americans’: Costa Rica’s tourism campaigns

September 3, 2019

Costa Rica’s economy relies on tourism, and the country has worked hard to increase the flow of international visitors to the country.

Monday, the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) launched a new campaign, “Only the Essentials,” that will target major markets in the United States and Canada.

The new branding strategy will run for two years, and the Costa Rican government expects it to help improve a struggling economy.

Of course, “Only the Essentials” isn’t Costa Rica’s first foray into international marketing campaigns. From “No Artificial Ingredients!” to the country’s latest offering, we take a look back at memorable tourism commercials.

No Artificial Ingredients!

In case the dated CGI and WordArt-style text animations didn’t tip you off, this video is straight out of the 1990s.

“No Artificial Ingredients!” highlighted different areas of Costa Rica, including Monteverde, Cocos Island and the Talamanca mountain range.

The campaign “delivered excellent results,” according to former tourism minister Allan Flores. But within Costa Rica, some thought of the slogan as hypocritical, especially considering the country’s high pesticide use.

First launched in 1997, the “No Artificial Ingredients” slogan was used for more than a decade before it was phased out in 2013 for the “Essential Costa Rica” brand that persists today.

Million Dollar Gift of Happiness 

Why are Costa Ricans so happy? It might just be because of the talking, anthropomorphic sloths.

Mr. Sloth and his free trips to Costa Rica became an internet sensation in 2011, and tens of thousands of people entered the promotional giveaway contest. Even Anderson Cooper got involved, presenting a newlywed couple with a Gift of Happiness trip on his show.

Save the Americans! 

Do you need saving? Targeting overworked Americans* and Canadians, this 2014 campaign hoped to attract overstressed people yearning for a vacation.

Despite the singing animals being slightly too lifelike and crossing into the uncanny valley, the ad won a “Webby” for Best Online Film & Video in the “Travel & Adventure” category.

* It’s somewhat funny that Costa Rica would offer to save the “Americans” when most Ticos would consider themselves to also be Americans, since they too are from the Americas.

Essential Costa Rica: My Choice, Naturally

A 2017 partnership with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and CNN International showcased Costa Rica as “as a destination that generates authentic travel experiences, which create a sense of well-being in visitors,” according to then-tourism minister Mauricio Ventura.

This campaign was Costa Rica’s first to focus on Europe in addition to North America. And it didn’t feature any singing animals.

Only the Essentials 


Costa Rica’s latest campaign brands the country as “an opportunity to connect with the essence of life: nature, well-being, culture and adventure.”

The campaign will target the U.S. and Canada over the next two years.

What do you think of Costa Rica’s tourism campaigns over the years? Let us know in the comments! 

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