The Beauty of Rural Tourism: Within The Inside of Costa Rica

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The current pandemic is a daily reminder of the dangers of our actions. It forces us to examine the consequences created concerning the way we spend our time on the outside. And, more importantly, what we do in our periods of leisure and vacation.

According to research, the tourism industry will likely be one to decline by up to 60% by the end of 2020. Tons of jobs are now at risk, and this sets a worrying scenario for many economies of the world. As distressing as this is, it can also be the way to start dialogues on how regular tourism cannot be a viable form of travel.

Tourism like we know it may pose a social threat to the public for now, but it is a long-standing menace in many parts of the world.

Hard tourism vs. soft tourist

Many experts refer to regular tourism as Hard Tourism.

Hard Tourism, as Zsuzsanna Bacsi (2019) explains in her study of world heritage sites, is mass tourism within a singular space. These are activities that promote brief visits to places without meditating on their existence. They are very popular for their shopping destinations and souvenirs for pure consumerism. Most of them have rigorous programs that do not allow individual preferences. Some do not even have local guidance that gives honest insights into the places in question. All this information provides enough reason to give it a second thought in light of recent events.

A more conscious and viable alternative could be a softer approach to tourism.

In contrast, Soft Tourism encourages small and intimate groups to enhance the experience. The time spent in the area is longer, and there is a sense of spontaneity within the tour. They have comprehensive programs to follow, and the voices of local representatives lead the visits. They make these adventures a learning affair rather than a simple visit out of sheer curiosity. 

Latin america: the enterprise for ecotourism

What is so attractive about Soft tourism is its relation to its surroundings. The goal is to maintain harmony between the natural, social, and cultural environment of the place. Because of this, the principal synonym of soft tourism is ecotourism.

This way of traveling consists of programs that maximize tourism benefits while reducing our impacts on the environment. Most destinations for ecotourism are natural parks, forests, and hidden reserved areas. Because of this, small and tight communities are in charge of them. The aim is to rejoice in what this rural style of living offers by merely being there.

Latin America has unique ecosystems and multitudes of astonishing landscapes. For that reason, it has embraced soft tourism since the beginning of the past decade. The sub-continent has expanded its tourism industry and has also increased the development of economies in several countries. At present, traveling to these regions is even more in demand by visitors, and very profitable to locals, as some of these remote regions have an internet presence.

In countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Costa Rica, the increase in revenues from their tourism industry has become significant. It is also the source of employment for many Latin Americans. Among these regions, Costa Rica has an upper-hand in the ecotourism industry. 

The country holds 5% of the world’s biodiversity. But this is not the only reason for the country’s success in ecotourism. It is also for the interdisciplinary work made by the national state and local agents. They have made possible implementing programs that promote rural tourism inclusively and uniquely. Their main goal is to make hosts and guests active assets of a unique and rewarding experience.

Community-based rural tourism:
Actuar and its valuable legacy

When the country started to see its tourism rising, one of the first traveling associations was ACTUAR. This organization specialized in community-based rural tourism. They supported more than 36 rural community initiatives within the country. Their ways of working with the natives involved extending loans to residents. Aside from that, they reinvested all profits in promotional campaigns. Their community work also included workshops to impart environmental education and organic production.

Their services are no longer running, but their original vision remains alive in many Costa Rican organizations. Such is the case of a local initiative created by women and called TRC Viajes. They have a sustainability policy that develops tourism with positive impacts while making little to no negative impact while touring.

To the tourists, this translates to an authentic rural experience. They can appreciate agricultural traditions, small artisan industries, and indigenous cultures. The only rule is to respect and honor the surrounding nature and leave no trace after. The real beauty is the closeness and sense of warmth in these visits. Most hosts are small families within the communities, so everyone takes part in the activities. Because of this, the tourists feel welcome and never out of place.

TRC Viajes: Promoting Rural development in Costa Rica

Their tourist packages include a diversity of places all over the remote areas of Costa Rica. They offer about 23 different locations where you get to pick which one fits what you look for the most. All destinations have dedicated purposes. Some can be to seek out encounters with native cultures and others to experience rural life in farms.

For instance, several locations are reserves of the Bribris, indigenous people living in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica. Each one possesses enchanting sceneries that make these one-day tours feel longer.

Bribris community. Source: TRC Viajes

Every activity planned for the guests is special, as they all get involved in the community’s culture. They can practice ancestral traditions and learn about the importance of their medicinal plants. They also taste their cooking, made with food harvested in that same place. Hiking, swimming in waterfalls and rivers, and even practicing with a bow is very common. All these activities are vital within the Cosmovision of the Bribris.

Other locations more diverted to explore and learn about native farming are also available. They are as enriching and beautiful as their tour to an Eco Farm situated in the province of Limón. 

Every person visiting here will engage in all activities and learn to harvest through organic agriculture. Additional activities include cooking and discovering beautiful species of frogs and birds in its rainforests.

Eco-farm Tour. Source: TRC Viajes

 

There is a lot to learn in these places. But the most important of all things is that they teach you to be grateful for the diversity and beauty this world has to offer.

The desire to discover new places has to come with a sense of responsibility and openness. One that acknowledges the impact of our actions when visiting somewhere.  Making ethical choices can lead us to even more enjoyable experiences that enrich everyone involved. 

Supporting these small but very honorable projects creates a successful pathway to a cohesive platform of conscious traveling. This could give way more visibility to the people involved and the beautiful dedication of their work.

By Amalia

By Amalia

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