As with most Central American and Caribbean countries, tourism is an integral part of Costa Rica’s economy. Taking in about a million annual visitors and providing a billion dollar boost to the economy every year, Costa Rica has continually developed better methods and practices to ensure the continued growth of the industry.
While many of Costa Rica’s peers in the region have focused on rapid industrialization and urbanization as a means of development, Costa Rica has turned to the tourism industry’s fastest growing sector – ecotourism – as its key to economic development.
Putting together the several competing definitions of ecotourism, the most basic notion of ecotourism is the “purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment; taking care not to alter the integrity of the ecosystem; producing economic opportunities that make the conservation of natural resources beneficial to local people.”
With this in mind, Costa Rica became one of the first countries in the world to recognize the potential negative effects of ‘mass tourism’ and the need to develop more sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
Fast forward a few years and Costa Rica’s ecotourism industry is now considered a global leader for making tourism businesses more environmentally and socially responsible. While the system is yet to be perfect, Costa Rica is well ahead of the pack in developing a lucrative, yet environmentally friendly, ecotourism industry.