Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination worldwide, especially among tourists from Canada, Europe, and the US. And while Costa Rica, as a country, depends heavily on the tourism industry for its economic development, it has not been spared the consequences of tourism.
Costa Rica, a pioneer of ecotourism for over 25 years, has faced overtourism during peak seasons. Overtourism can have adverse effects on fragile ecosystems, the local community, and the environment of a tourist hotspot.
According to the report by UNWTO, overtourism can be defined as “the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitors’ experiences in a negative way”.
How can overtourism be managed?
There cannot be just one solution to this problem. Various measures, strategies, and policy changes, must be made to mitigate the crisis of overtourism. Here are some potential solutions!
1. Promote tourism in different periods
Costa Rica has a summer or dry season in the months of November-March. This is also a time when European countries, Canada, and the US are experiencing winters and heavy snowfall. Therefore, an influx of tourists at this time of the year.
Promoting experiences and stimulating events during the off-season would help disperse tourists round the year.
2. Promote tourism in lesser-known destinations
When tourists think of Costa Rica, they can think of only a few popular destinations like Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio, La Fortuna, etc. Even in La Fortuna, only a few spots are well known among international tourists.
Promoting lesser-known destinations within and beyond the city will help in the dispersion of the tourists, and prevent overcrowding at hotspots.
3. Improve public transport
Many international tourists hire a car as soon as they land in Costa Rica. They then drive to their destination by car, contributing to increased traffic and congestion in the cities.
Improving public transportation facilities to make it better suited for tourists and promoting it as a mode of commuting can help prevent traffic jams.
4. Make tourism more expensive
Rather than an occasional luxury, tourism has now become more of a commodity purchase for people. Making tourism more expensive by imposing tourist taxes, pollution taxes, day charges, etc., can discourage tourists from visiting a particular place.
Let’s look at some cities/countries that took similar measures.
- Walt Disney World in Florida charges more for tickets during peak periods.
- Barcelona levies ‘tourist tax’ on travelers staying overnight. Tourists aboard cruise ships pay a ‘pollution tax’.
- Tourists (daytrippers) visiting Venice will have to pay a fee ranging from 3 euros to 10 euros per person from 2023, depending on the time of year and how crowded the city is. Those who don’t pay the tax will have to pay a fine of up to 300 euros.
- Thailand has introduced a tourist fee of 300 Baht ($9) which will automatically get added to the price of flight tickets.
5. Improve infrastructure and facilities
By developing infrastructure and facilities, cities and major attractions can be made ready to tackle extensive tourism during peak season. The provision of adequate public facilities and safe walking paths can be ensured. A city-wide plan can be made for well-balanced traffic management.
6. Educate travelers and create awareness
Educating tourists on local culture, traditions, values, and regulations can help create sensitivity among them. Creating awareness about the impact of tourism on the local communities, environment and the ecosystem can encourage them to be more responsible and respectful of the place they are visiting.
7. Involve the local community and stakeholders
Ensure the benefit of tourism to the local communities. Involve them in important tourist decisions and choices.
By creating more jobs for the residents, involving them in creating experiences, and promoting local businesses, their support and partnership are guaranteed.
Authorities and governments at all levels need to take the lead. Though not all measures may deter international tourists from coming to Costa Rica, they might prove helpful in curbing overtourism to some extent. We are definitely rooting for them!
Coming up – 10 Ways to Avoid Contributing to Overtourism in Costa Rica