Is Sustainability a requirement for eco-tourism?

Costa Rica natureIn yesterday’s sustainable tourism conference, speaker Lawrence Pratt dissected the issue and importance of sustainability in regards to successful eco-tourism. Pratt – from INCAE, a multi-national graduate business school that was established by support from President John Kennedy – said that sustainability is integrally linked with eco-tourism and vice verse.

But sustainable tourism goes beyond Nature, he said. In Costa Rica in particular, it’s taken on a highly diverse profile.

The Certificate of Sustainable Tourism (CST) has helped Costa Rica create a country position as an eco-tourist destination. In fact, he said, the CST has been successfully replicated in other countries.

But he questioned whether sustainability really helps drive eco-tourism and if it’s a requirement to creating the tourist-related income desired.

Pratt gave dramatically diverse examples of companies that promote themselves as having sustainability practices, including:

  • Holand America and their sustainability program
  • Motel 6, which, Pratt said, will wind up becoming the greenest small hotel chain in the U.S. through their current efforts

“By claiming sustainability, you’re no different than Motel 6 or Holland America,” Pratt said to attendees, assuring them that these 2 companies were actively pursuing their green efforts.

Pratt posed the questions: what’s needed to expand current eco-tourism efforts and what drives it?

With no set answers, he said perhaps a new definition of sustainability was needed and that Costa Rica needed to reinvent itself in this.

What will make Costa Rica different from the rest of the world who has already adopted this concept and practice, he asked?

Excellent questions for any country or region wanting to drive eco-tourism.

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