With Costa Rica being the most-visited nation in the Central American region, tourism has skyrocketed here over the past two decades. Over 49% of the tourists come from the United States.
Few people know that Costa Rica is a pioneer of ecotourism, drawing tourists to its extensive series of national parks and other protected areas. Ecotourism is one of the prime industries in its economy, with the tourism sector responsible for 5.1% of the country’s GDP.
What is Ecotourism?
For the unversed, ecotourism is a form of travel that involves responsible travel to natural areas, conservation of the environment, and improvement of the well-being of local communities. It is focused on the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage of the destination while ensuring minimum impact on the environment.
Ecotourism is intended to educate the traveler, create environmental awareness, provide funds for ecological conservation, and contribute to the economic development of the local communities.
Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has rich biodiversity and makes up about 5% of the earth’s biodiversity. Over 21% of the national territory is marked for conservation, one of the highest ratios in the world.
But it wasn’t always this way. During the early 20th century, many forests were cut down, and the land was used for agriculture and development. Taking note of this, Costa Rica began taking extensive measures. Logging industries were shut down and hunting was banned. Expansion of the national park system took place rapidly in the 1970s. In the early 1990s, Costa Rica began reversing deforestation and went on to become the first tropical country to have stopped and reversed deforestation.
By the 1990s, Costa Rica was already known as the poster child of ecotourism. It, now, has over half a million acres of land designated as protected areas, including 70 protected areas.
8 Ways to be an Ecotourist
Here are a few ways to become an ecotourist.
- Visit places that are operating for environmental conservation.
- Be sensitive to the ecosystem, local community, and culture.
- Support local conservation efforts.
- Book your stay at a local eco-friendly accommodation.
- Look for guided tours by locals.
- Bring your trash back or dispose of it in designated bins.
- Eat local food cooked with local ingredients.
- Use public transportation.
Benefits of Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Previously dependent heavily on the exportation of agricultural products, Costa Rica has now turned to ecotourism for its economical development. It takes advantage of the growing demand for tourists visiting these protected areas in exchange for profit.
Ecotourism has also resulted in a rapid expansion of the job market, both at a national and local level. Residents earn almost double the monthly income in the tourism industry as compared to jobs in other industries. Local communities and schools have benefitted from donations from visitors.
Ecotourism also encourages conservation efforts on an individual level. Informed tour guides and educational material can entice a tourist to start participating in conservation. Biologists, birdwatchers, and nature tourists converge from around the world to experience this slice of heaven.