Despite reports of an economic slowdown, one form of travel which is continuing to thrive is “sustainable tourism” in the luxury market. Leading the way in this niche travel sector are two hotels nestled within the rainforests of Costa Rica: The Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge; and Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort. These hotels are perfect examples of this new breed of luxury sustainability, and are setting the standards in the industry for eco-tourism within Costa Rica and even Latin America as a whole.
In recent years, sustainability has become a growing trend across the industrial world and has firmly established its place in the luxury tourism sector. At The Lapa Rios Ecolodge, guests can take a behind-the-scenes look at the hotel’s operation and environmentally friendly practices including: solar panels; non-chlorinated pool cleaning systems; and a bio-digestor which uses pig’s manure to power the stoves. One particularly popular project at The Lapa Rios Ecolodge is the jaguar research investigation. Guests work together with a biologist to install camera equipment that is used to take pictures and record data of the jaguar population living in the Osa Peninsula.
As the green movement continues to influence consumer’s travel decisions, travel industry professionals seek a greater understanding of the potential impact on buyer motivation. Media Manager at Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge, Hans Pfister comments:
“Sustainable tourism is thriving - the concept of going “green” and environmental awareness, in general, is booming in the States and also in Europe. As more people begin to go “green” in their lifestyle, they will inevitably look to “green” for travel as well. The more that people decide to buy organic food, for example, the more they will think about how their travel decisions will impact the surrounding environment. Sustainable tourism is especially strong in the high-end market segment, and this will only continue to grow in the coming years.”
This “green” or sustainable way of living is clearly evident at the Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge and Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort. For instance, Lapa Rios Ecolodge is working to become the first hotel in Costa Rica to be considered “carbon neutral” and has received a rating of five leaves from the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (CST) for the second time. This makes it the only hotel in Costa Rica to have received a five leaf rating for two consecutive years. In addition, Arenas del Mar Beach focuses on a number of activities including: extensive recycling and composting programs; partnerships with local non-profit organisations; and hosting monthly community get-togethers to discuss green issues.
Hans Pfister continues:
“While we feel that sustainability is not ‘the’ main criteria when selecting a hotel (rates, quality, and location, are still more important for most people), it plays an important role during the holiday experience. Guests who take a sustainability tour have a higher level of satisfaction with their stay as they feel that, besides enjoying beautiful installations, great food and great service, they have contributed to something bigger and can actually make a difference. We have received incredible feedback from our guests for our sustainability program. Guests always comment on how they truly feel as though their travel decision has made a positive impact on the surrounding community. More importantly, we have found that guests who stay at our properties leave our hotel inspired and ready to take action in their own communities as well (thereby spreading the message of sustainability even further)”.
Journey Latin America specialises in tailor-made itineraries and group tours to all of Latin America, including Costa Rica. An eight-night itinerary to Costa Rica visiting Arenas del Mar Beach and Nature Resort and The Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge starts from £1159pp. Price includes all transport, domestic flights and most meals. International flights are extra. Fly with Continental Airlines via Houston: prices start from £489 pp (includes taxes). These prices are based on travel until 31 October 2008.