16 / Jan / 2023
By Alejandra Monge – Executive Director of the Corcovado Foundation
We are promoting regenerative tourism as a power to encourage coexisting and thriving
Joining the tourism industry can be great motivation to promote ecosystem conservation. A farmer can sell a tree a million times to tourists, but once he cuts it down, that asset is gone. Tourism can be a way to reduce poverty in a community if the natural and social assets are well-managed and planned. Regenerative tourism is a type of tourism that not only prevents destruction or promotes sustainability but habilitates conditions to restore ecosystems and communities. At its best, regenerative tourism increases empathy, builds friendships between strangers, and uncovers a broader world. When designed with sustainability as its intention, tourism can contribute to a higher purpose that supports both residents and the natural environment.
We have been promoting community-based tourism in Osa, La Amistad, and more currently, Barra del Colorado to promote rainforest conservation.
As a part of our efforts to showcase what regenerative tourism can look like, we rebranded our volunteer camp to make it an immersive regenerative tourism experience for visitors, students, and volunteers. We have created opportunities where tourism money not only supports environmental education activities but also volunteers and tourists can get involved with the community, share experiences with the environmental educators and the children, work on regenerative agriculture, or plant trees to restore ecosystems. Our Biohostel is a place where tourists can build an intimate interaction with the environment and community.
Regeneration requires a healthy relationship with the environment and, oftentimes, a new point of view. Regenerative tourism is the challenge of the future: a process of partnership with nature in reverberation with indigenous and local wisdom. We believe that humanity has an inherently positive relationship with nature — or that people and nature are interrelated. We need to re-create that relationship in our modern way of life. Reconciling the place of humans in the ecosystem will bring the healing that the planet currently needs.
We have all seen the impact of ill-managed tourism in coastal areas, wastewater polluting water sources, giant pools competing for limited resources such as water, rainforests cleared to place golf courses, or building massive infrastructures. However, tourism has the power to promote conservation if well-intended.
Costa Rica’s National Park system was born on the dream that tourism could spear conservation
People and nature can flourish together. That was Mario Boza’s dream when he started promoting the national park concept in Costa Rica in the 70s. At that time, Costa Rican visionary leaders led this process; being Alvaro Ugalde and Mario Boza among the most prominent and often called ‘the fathers of the national parks of Costa Rica.” Boza is credited with having initiated a lobbying process with government leaders and a national campaign to raise awareness about the opportunity that the development of national parks was for the country.
“The first time I saw a complete park operating was in the Smokey Mountains. I saw people going back and forth, using the facilities. And Gatlinburg, and all the things that had grown up around the park because it was there. And I thought Costa Rica is ready for this!” Mario stated in his interview with David Rains.(Rains, 1992).
Great Smoky Mountains National Park overlaps between North Carolina and Tennessee and was created in 1934. When Boza visited the park, a strong tourism community had developed around it, which helped promote the conservation mission of the park.
In May 1969, Boza wrote an editorial in the newspaper La República, which reflected his thoughts on the Smokies: “Although from a commercial point of view, national parks do not seem like a necessary investment, they can become one of the largest sources of income of a nation. East Africa, having more vision than us in this field, has increased its annual revenue from tourism by 15%. What could we not do in our country, being much closer to the primary source of tourists in the world?(Rains, 1992)
There is more significant evolutionary potential when humans keep an intentional interrelationship with nature. People have a positive role to play. For sustained environmental health, people must develop an interrelationship with nature — one that is mutually beneficial and generates room for being and becoming aware of evolutionary potential. It is a conscious awareness that an ecosystem’s health depends on human health while the health of the whole ecology determines human health.
Today, when we are challenged with climate change, how we spend our money, buy our products or choose our vacations is key to making a difference and promoting nature conservation and human development while lifting our spirits.