Tourism’s Impact on Local Businesses in Rural Costa Rica

Last week, we headed to Cayuga Collection’s Senda Hotel in Monteverde. We hosted a visit by a well-known and respected local journalist Rodolfo Gonzalez. He is the producer and host of the Monday night prime time report called “7 Dias”.

The goal of the visit was to document the impact that rural tourism in Costa Rica has on related businesses and the social and economic impact of this value chain. The report will air on Costa Rica’s Canal 7 in early November.

Rodolfo and his team interviewed several employees of Senda and asked about how they felt about living and working in Monteverde.

Rachel, one of our housekeepers, was among the first employees that Senda hired upon opening in 2018. She was excited to share her story about living and working in Monteverde with the journalists from San Jose.

We then went on to visit local businesses in Monteverde like Stellas’s Coffee Shop and talked to local tour guides. We even did a guided night hike in the Aguti Reserve that is adjacent to the Senda Hotel.

But the highlight was a visit to a local cheesemaker. Bernal Villegas, a former bank employee who was born and raised in Monteverde started a small cheese-making business a couple of years ago. He shared his story with Rodolfo.

The idyllic location of Bernal’s cheese production: “Lacteos Artesanales Las Nubes” This is about a 20 minute car ride from the center of Monteverde.
Before Bernald started to make cheese, he sold milk to the local cooperative. But there was barely enough profit in this to make a living. He is proud of his cows and almost treats them like “family”.
Making artisan cheeses for consumption in local hotels like Senda increased the “added value” of his products and allowed him and his family to improve their quality of life. We were able to sample products and were very impressed by the quality and variety that he and his team produce.
Bernald learned how to make cheese at the local INA (Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje). He is proud of the products that he crafts and the great comments he receives from hotel guests.
The last months have been tough due to the Covid crisis and its impact on tourism. Bernald remembers that orders from hotels came to a complete stop in late March. But luckily, hotels like Senda started to receive local Costa Ricans as guests, and cheese orders and production resumed in June.
Bernald is in the final stages of offering a Cheese Making and Tasting Tour at Las Nubes and of course, we will support him by sending Senda guests on this tour.
Local employment in so many areas depends on tourism. Getting back to travel support not only employment in the hotels you are staying but also local supply chains and businesses like the one of Bernald.

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