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Certificate of Sustainable Tourism
One trip to Costa Rica and you'll swear everything here is eco-lodges, ecotourism, eco-this, eco-that. But sustainability, the buzzword in Costa Rican tourism these days, also has to do with conserving cultural, as well as natural, resources. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program, administered jointly by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, National Chamber of Tourism, Ministry of the Environment, and University of Costa Rica, recognizes businesses that adhere to those ideals. Those that submit to a rigorous assessment are evaluated on their employment of local people, respect for local culture, contribution to the economic and social well-being of the community, and preservation of natural resources. Businesses that rely heavily on foreign investment and whose earnings are mostly repatriated outside Costa Rica don't make the cut (but probably don't submit to an evaluation in the first place).
Instead of stars, 178 hotels have earned one to five leaves for their efforts. At this writing, Finca Rosa Blanca, in the Central Valley; Lapa Ríos and El Remanso, on the South Pacific; Sí Como No and Arenas del Mar on the Central Pacific; the Harmony Hotel and Punta Islita, on the North Pacific; Villa Blanca, Hotel Belmar, and La Quinta de Sarapiquí, in the Northern Plains; and Almonds & Corals, on the Caribbean coast, are the lodgings in this book to hold five leaves. The resorts and hotels that are recognized are not all small "mom-and-pop" places: the Four Seasons on the Papagayo Peninsula and Arenal's Tabacón have been recognized as well. Nor are they only places in the middle of the rain forest: San José's large but unobtrusive Clarion Hotel Amón Plaza is among several city lodgings proudly displaying awards.
Although other countries have their own rating systems for eco-friendly lodgings, many of these suffer from corrupt policies that allow ratings to be bought. The CST is one of the best and most thorough awards programs in the world. You'll find a list of Costa Rica's CST holders at the program's Spanish-English-French-German website www.turismo-sostenible.co.cr.
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