Costa Rica’s Certification Program for Sustainable Tourism (CST)
The first, and perhaps most far reaching, program developed by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), along with other governmental and educational groups, to promote the concept of sustainable tourism is the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (CST). The CST program categorizes and certifies tourism companies according to the level that their operations approach a model of sustainability—in terms of their degree of impact on the natural, cultural and social resources of the country. The certification committee focuses on four operational components: the physical-biological; the infrastructure and services; the external clients; and the socioeconomic environment. These categories cover a range of issues as specific as the type of products and consumer goods purchased and used by a company, to those more broad-based, such as a company’s efforts to educate their clients toward conservation and respect for local culture. In summary, the ICT would define sustainable tourism “as the balanced interaction of three basic factors within the tourism industry: 1- Proper stewardship of our natural and cultural resources; 2 – Improvement of the quality of life of the local communities; and 3- Economic success, that can contribute to other programs of national development.”
Although Costa Rica and many of its wilderness-oriented tourism businesses are famous for pioneering the concept of ecotourism, the CST addresses a broader concept—sustainable tourism—which addresses both wilderness and urban tourism activities and encourages practices that spread benefits more widely into the local communities and ensures long-lasting success. CST isn’t an ecotourism seal. It is a set of performance-based standards that create guidelines that any country would want their development to follow, whether based on an ecotourism model or not. The certification addresses a series of basic principles of sustainability that are in need of adoption the world over. In fact, the CST guidelines have been approved by the ministries of tourism of every country in Central America, as well as Mexico and Belize and several countries in South America have expressed interest in developing similar programs.
It has been said before that CST is a program “worthy of exportation.” The truth is that Costa Rica has been exporting the concept of ecotourism and sustainable development for some time now. The numbers of people that visit the country annually attest to the country’s leadership position in this timely market, illustrating that Costa Rica doesn’t just export bananas anymore! Visit www.turismo-sostenible.co.cr for more information.