Caravana Tica Takes Sustainability and Culture to Communities

Buena Vista is a small rural town located in northern Costa Rica, over 124 miles (200 km) from the capital. It has gravel streets, a school, a community hall, small businesses, and homes surrounded by unique natural beauty. As its name suggests, the views from here are indeed beautiful. Each year, hundreds of tourists pass through the village to go to the famous volcano, Rincon de la Vieja, and enjoy the exquisite hot springs that flow from the mountain.

In early November, the residents of Buena Vista received several visitors who had a different mission: Caravana Tica. More than 70 people, including volunteers, artists, business executives, and representatives from nonprofit organizations, came to give back to the local people a part of what they have given the tourism industry.

Caravana Tica is an initiative led by the tour operator Ecole Travel, a company that has promoted responsible tourism in Costa Rica for 20 years, received the top rating from the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program, and earned the Rainforest Alliance Verification. Ecole created the caravan as part of its environmental and social program to benefit the communities where their tourism activities have more impact.

 Buena Vista,  Costa Rica

«This is our vision of corporate social responsibility,» said Ecole director Astrid Cremers. «We want to merge sustainable tourism and culture and reach out to the communities with cultural and capacity building activities. We want to leave something positive behind.»

The caravan took advantage of the popular celebrations in Buena Vista and entered with a shot of culture. Ecole convened a group of actors who offered two nights of theater performances that surprised and brought smiles to children as well as adults. «This was a novelty for the community! Most of the people of Buena Vista had never seen a play before,» said Izvetia Abarca, a teacher at the local school.

The tour operator also coordinated a Costa Rican folk dance presentation featuring the typical dances of Guanacaste, the province where Buena Vista is located. On that day, puppet making workshops were held for children, while the Kukara Makara artisan group taught local women how to use recycled and locally available materials to make crafts that they can sell to tourists to generate extra income for their families. Furthermore, Ecole is promoting a project that will teach these women to make boxes out of recycled paper, which will be used to package soaps made and sold at Buena Vista Lodge.

The Buena Vista School also benefited from Caravana Tica, as they received a large number of books and other school supplies donated by the companies Santillana and Zona Tropical. Additionally, caravan volunteers spent three days painting a large nature mural on one of the school’s walls.  volunteers painting a large nature mural on the local school

While Ecole Travel was the facilitator of Caravana Tica, Cremers emphasized that the event was made possible thanks to the collaboration of many tourism businesses and organizations. This year, 15 hotels, EARTH University, the Santillana publishing group, Rainforest Alliance, Zona Tropical, the University of Costa Rica, the Ministry of Education, and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute all contributed to the initiative.

«This shows that more and more tourism companies are interested in sustainability and social responsibility, and that if we unite, we can all give a lot more to the communities that are the foundation of our businesses,» said Cremers.

This was the second Caravana Tica event. Last year, the initiative traveled to Tortuguero, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, and it was equally successful. According to Cremers, not only has the good response motivated them to continue taking the caravan to other communities, they will redouble their efforts to do it more often.

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Date / Fecha: 11/12/12

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