TourCert Journal

Rediscover Costa Rica – Sarchí and Sarapiquí become the first certified sustainable destinations in Central America


TourCert supports innovation processes and promotes more diversification in tourism through sustainability

On behalf of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), TourCert has accompanied Sarchí and Sarapiquí in Costa Rica on their way to becoming sustainable destinations. This is a unique process for positioning new tourist locations.

Those who have already been to Costa Rica know them, the typical hotspots like the Arenal volcano, the Manuel Antonio National Park or the turtles in Tortuguero. But there is more to discover. The picturesque town of Sarchí in the province of Alajuela for example, is located about 45 minutes from San José and is an important artisan town in Costa Rica. It is best known for the colourful ox carts that are handcrafted here and sold throughout the country. Also around Sarchí there are beautiful, lush landscapes to admire, the nearby volcano Poas or the National Park Juan Castro.

Ochsenkarren in Sarchí
An artistically hand-painted traditional ox cart in Sarchí

Further northeast on the border to Nicaragua lies the Canton of Sarapiquí, which forms a large part of the province of Heredia. It is known throughout Costa Rica for its rich biodiversity and as a dream destination for adventurous people. Sarapiquí has a number of nature reserves and national parks, including the Braulio Carrillo National Park. In addition, the Rio Sarapiquí offers various offers for water lovers such as boat trips and white water rafting.

Bootsfahrt auf dem Rio Sarapiquí
Insights of the region on the Rio Sarapiquí

The two regions are not yet very well known for tourism, but this is about to change. The aim is to position the regions as tourist destinations and to diversify offers in Costa Rica. At the end of 2017, Sarchí and Sarapiquí therefore embarked on the route towards the destination certification by TourCert – and successfully completed it in the past weeks. On September 24th and 25th, the certification certificates were ceremoniously handed over.

Zertifikatsübergabe in Sarapiquí © TourCert
Eduardo Villafranca of RBA, Irina Kausch of the GIZ, Orlando Brenes, Deputy Mayor of Sarapiquí, and Angela Giraldo of TourCert (l.t.r.) at the ceremonial handover of the certificate in Sarapiquí

“In the process of certifying sustainable destinations, we attach great importance to “empowerment”, i.e. the development of learning structures that are jointly committed to development,”

assures Eduardo Villafranca, President of RBA, who, as partners of TourCert in Costa Rica, trained those responsible in the respective destinations, passing on their knowledge to the team and motivating them to act sustainably. This creates a value chain in the companies and communities.

At the beginning of the process, the scope of the destinations was defined and the tourism areas were specified. Then an inventory was conducted using the TourCert certification instruments such as product evaluation, surveys and data collection, as well as the acquisition of partner companies. In June, the strategy workshop took place, during which action fields were prioritized and the improvement program was drawn up. After the internal audits in July and the completion of the sustainability report, the final external audit took place at the beginning of September.

Zertifikatsübergabe in Sarchí © TourCert
The certification ceremony in Sarchí with Francisco Hidalgo, honorary consultant of the Municipality in Art & Culture and Environmental Manager, Virgilio Espinoza, Director of the Sustainability Certification CST of the Ministry of Tourism, Irina Kausch of the GIZ, Angela Giraldo of TourCert, Eduardo Villafranca of RBA, Norma Zelendón Pérez, Vice-Mayor and President of the Sustainability Council, Xinia Paniagua, Vice-President of the Sustainability Council and Dr. Luis Oscar Quesada Esquivel,, Mayor of Sarchí (l.t.r.)

As in many regions of Costa Rica tourism is an important economic factor, employer and image carrier in Sarchí and Sarapiquí. There are already around 25 partner companies (hotels, restaurants, tour operators, handicraft businesses and wood workshops) on board. They also provide foreign tour operators new offers which meet sustainable standards and invite them to rediscover Costa Rica.

Celebration, Certification, Costa Rica, GIZ, Sarapiquí, Sarchí, Sustainable Destinations