Global Tourism Challenges have arrived in Costa Rica
Last month, we were invited to present on the topic of “The Future of Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism” as keynote speakers at an important travel event called Remote Latin America. On the horizon, we identified three main challenges that are slowly but surely creeping up on Costa Rica.
Climate Change and Climate Change Adaption
According to the latest reports from scientists, we are in danger of losing the race to stop climate change and keeping the earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Looking back at the last few years and the increase in natural disasters around the world, it certainly feels that way. In Costa Rica, we experienced heavy flooding and forest fires, and we are also on the verge of an “El Niño” year which will bring droughts and scarcity of water. All of this is affecting not only the local population but also tourists visiting the country.
At Cayuga, we have always worked hard to lower our carbon footprint, but now we have started to think more and more about climate change adaptions. We have upgraded our emergency response plans and training for natural disasters, and especially in the Guanacaste area, we are very aware of every drop of water spent.
Overtourism and Peak Seasonality
“Overtourism” occurs when too many tourists overwhelm a destination, shifting the balance from a positive experience to one where the vast quantity of visitors becomes unsustainable. This has become a serious problem in popular European cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and Dubrovnik, and also in certain cultural, natural and beach destinations in Asia.
In Costa Rica, we have not officially had the overtourism discussion – yet. However, this is the third time we are mentioning the phenomenon in our blog. We believe that this upcoming high season, certain destinations like Jaco, Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, La Fortuna and Manuel Antonio could begin to experience that shift toward unsustainable levels of tourism.
The main problem we see are the peak travel periods during Christmas, President’s Week and Spring Break. Governments that are interested in maintaining tourism as a force for good – including our own in Costa Rica – have a strong interest in balancing out demand throughout the year and limiting visitation to certain fragile ecosystems during those peak times.
At Cayuga, we will continue to monitor this trend carefully, especially in Manuel Antonio where we operate a hotel set within a private nature reserve. Despite being away from the crowds, our guests can still be affected negatively by the impacts of overtourism.
Indifference to Sustainability in General
We get bombarded with “good news” on research carried out on how more and more consumers prefer green or sustainable products over conventional ones. While this is of course great news, we find that in reality, when it comes to making a decision with your wallet, most people (even if they say they would like to be sustainable) still choose conventional products. This is not only true for consumers, but also for businesses. Rafat Ali, Founder and Editor of Skift Magazine said in his highly popular article entitled “21 Uncomfortable Truths of the Hospitality Industry” that:
“…almost no one cares about sustainable travel, not the majority of the travel industry, and certainly not the travelers. Going green or caring about the environment are ego-boosting mantras taken out at the right moments and soon to be forgotten in the daily scheme of things.”
We have had conversations with Rafat about this topic in the past weeks. Originally, the article said that “nobody” cares about sustainable travel; we managed to convince him that some actually do and he has since changed the wording to “almost no one”.
So what can we do to make sustainability sexier and get consumers and industry leaders to walk the talk? We will continue to do our part at The Cayuga Collection but would love to hear your opinion. Drop us a note below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.