Costa Rica on the Top 10 Ethical Traveler Report Once Again

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Congratulations, Costa Rica! We made it back onto the Ethical Traveler Top 10 Ethical Destinations for 2017.

The list (in alphabetical order, not based on merit):

  • Belize 
  • Cabo Verde   
  • Chile 
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica  
  • Mongolia
  • Palau
  • Tonga
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu

The last time we appeared on the list was in 2013 (and every year since 2008, with the exception of 2010).  We dropped off this list for two years, inciting much controversy in the world travel and tourism communities.

To address the nation’s omission, the Costa Rican government invited Ethical Traveler’s Executive Director Jeff Greenwald to visit in May of 2015 to meet with activists, journalists, and government officials to discuss the country’s aspirations and challenges.  Some of these were combatting sex trafficking, shark finning, and sea turtle egg poaching.

Costa Rica was again omitted in 2016, despite being one of the most environmentally progressive countries in the developing world, offering clean energy, forest protection, as well as equal rights, access to the disabled, rule of law and LGBT freedom.  It was, however, still found lacking in progress of overcoming its challenges.

Costa Ricans are increasingly recognizing our interconnectedness and interdependence as a singular planet.  Although the government here has long understood that travel is one of the world’s most powerful economic engines, we are also increasingly learning that tourism drives the way we treat our citizens, indigenous people, wildlife and the environment.  Travel is, after all, the world’s largest industry.  With a trillion-dollar annual footprint, travelers carry with them enormous power.  When we choose our destination thoughtfully, we are playing the role of citizen diplomats, able to change the world for the better.

In 2016, Costa Rica proved that it is doing an impressive job in promoting human rights, preserving the environment, supporting social welfare and providing a vibrant community-based tourism industry. 

·         Costa Rica scored highest in environmental protection and plans to be carbon neutral by 2021.  To date, we have reached 81% of this goal and according to the National Centre for Energy Control (ICE), Costa Rica had 76 straight days of running on 100% renewable energy between July and August 2016.

·         Costa Rica recorded the lowest poverty figures in nearly a decade.

·         Entered into agreement with the USA and UN to protect Central Americans with “legitimate refugee claims” and applying to enter the USA

·         Costa Rica scored highest in the Freedom House yearly report on civil and political rights

·         A commitment was made in 2016 with eight other North and Central American countries to shelter and improve protections for refugees

·         The government and police are actively and sincerely trying to combat the human trafficking epidemic by arresting and breaking up the criminal groups responsible.

Although there is still evidence of ongoing sales of sea turtle eggs in some markets and inconsistent support for international conventions on shark protection, there has been much progress made in President Solis’ government in recent years.  As one example, Costa Rica is committed to nearly quadrupling the Cocos Island National Park, restricting the fishing of protected species.  These measures are being monitored and will need to continue for Costa Rica to be considered for 2018 Top 10.  No doubt we will do everything we can to maintain our growing world-class reputation.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer non-profit organization and a project of the Earth Island Institute. No money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted from any nations, governments, travel bureaus or individuals in the creation of our annual list.  See their original article here.