When the average tourist spends $100, only $5 of that stays in the local community. Our ucalgarycares program in Costa Rica focuses on community-based rural tourism, as well as ethical international engagement. It introduces students to alternatives to mass tourism (eco-tourism/community-based tourism) through guest speakers and first hand experiences. This year, our students spent one night with La Posada Rural La Amistad, locally-owned eco-cabins run by a women’s cooperative (now with 13 years of experience), harvested shellfish in the mangroves with another cooperative, fished using a low-impact technique (no rods or nets) with the Line Fishermen’s Association, toured the mangrove forests to learn about their ecological value, and did a workshop with a group of female artisans (another women’s cooperative with a 13-year history).
This program challenges students to think critically about the impact of tourism (positive and negative) on a given community, and to consider ways to preserve local culture and the environment, while supporting local economies, through tourism.