Thursday, August 12, 2010

Economic Team: Last Blog!

The Economic Team is back in Texas and rushing to finish our papers, presentations, and this blog! During our trip several issues of sustainable tourism came up. First, solar pannels and sustainable irrigation systems are expensive, and many hotel owners don't realize that they end up paying for themselves. Second, Squaters setting up a business on another establishment's land, copying their business, and gaining property rights. The final issue is that the sustainable tourism boom has caused many foreign owned hotels and businesses to come in and expand the west coast rapidly. These hotels, attractions, etc. have no requirement of sustainability and they are creating a bad name for Costa Rica. Some of these mega resorts say they are sustainable but we have our doubts.

The most crucial issue among these is the rapid expansion of the west coast. Since these hotels have no requirement to become CST or Bandera Azul certified they cause many environmental issues. Many have massive golf courses which can use up enough water in a year to provide for 10,000 families! The real problem with these hotels is that their unsustainable practices are creating a bad name for Costa Rica and as a result, bad press. The result is a loss in tourists who are interested in sustainability. Costa Rica must take some form of action to stop the unregulated growth.

Costa Rica could impliment many practices to minimize these issues. To improve the problem with expensive solar panels and irrigation the Costa Rican government could start an advertisment campaign informing hotel owners that the systems pay for themselves after a few years. They need to void the law that allows squaters to gain property rights by simply starting a business. The government should also require hotels on the coast line to be CST and Bandera Azul certified. This would cause these hotels to start off sustainable rather than come in the opposite and work toward it. It would put Costa Rica higher on the list of destinations to visit, and increase the economy's profit.

Other countries around the world can learn a lot from Costa Rica's tourism industry. For example the U.S. is generally only focused on one aspect of the Triple Bottom Line, Economics. If it realizes that the Social/Cultural and Environmental legs help hold up the business in a joint effort as it has in Costa Rica, U.S. businessmen will be more willing to explore these aspects. They can use certain Costa Rican businesses (Such as Si Como No, a five leaf hotel) as models for their explorations into sustainability. Hotel owners in the U.S. can speak with owners in Costa Rica about which practices have saved the most energy and money.

Sustainable tourism is sustainable in certain areas, but not in others. It really depends on the ownership of the hotel. Si Como No had five leaves and really seemed to have earned them. It is owned by an American, but he has really immersed himself into the Costa Rican culture. He even named his hotel a common Costa Rican term. In contrast the Marriot we visited seemed to be an extremely unsustainable corporately owned resort, yet it had four leaves of sustainability. It also had a golf course which uses mass amounts of water and fountains everywhere we looked.

The Economic group believes that sustainability is using your money to maintain social/cultural, and environmental values. If a businessman invests money and effort into his employees, the surrounding community, and the earth, he will save money on utility costs, have better customer service from his employees, and earn respect and business. He will have an increse in customers and will make more money.

This trip was a great experience and opportunity. Everyone who went on it grew in some way and learned much about culture, nature and tourism! It was so interesting to see how people in different countries live, and how different everything from traffic laws to shopping was. The Ticos are a great people with a calm, relaxed outlook on life. One of the best benefits of going on this trip was having the ability to escape from the hustle and bustle of the American lifestyle. Many of us still have the Tico mindset and need to be a little less tranqui.

We would like to thank everyone who was involved with this program especially Dr. Spears, Andrea, Eliecer, Hope, Jenn, Miguel, and Marcelo for all their planning and the opportunity for such an amazing adventure. We will remember this for the rest of our lives and are extremely grateful. Thank you!

Economic Group
Tyler Eaton
Kristel Montano
Bekah Nicks
Angele Hall
Krista VandenHeuvel

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