Developed by the Institute for Central American Studies’ Department of Responsible Travel as quoted in Beatrice Blake and Anne Becher, The New Key to Costa Rica , 13th edition, Ulysses Press, 1996, pp. 28-29.

Code of Ethics for Sustainable Tourism

1. Tourism should be culturally sensitive. Visitors should be given the opportunity to enjoy and learn from Costa Rica’s mix of cultures. Tourism should serve as a bridge between cultures, allowing people to interact and enrich their understanding of how other people live. Tours should be designed to provide participation in and enhance appreciation of local cultural traditions.

2. Tourism should be a positive influence on local communities. Tourism and tour operators should make every reasonable effort to allow communities near natural areas to benefit from tourism. By hiring local guides, patronizing locally owned restaurants and lodges, and buying local handicrafts, tourists can help convince residents that wild and historical places are worth saving.

3. Tourism should be managed and sustainable. Tour operators and visitors should encourage managers of parks, preserves, archaeological sites and recreational areas to develop and implement long-term management plans. these plans should preventdeterioration of ecosystems, prevent overcrowding, distribute visitors to underutilized areas, and consider all present and future environmental impacts.

4. Waste should be disposed of properly. Service providers should set a good example for visitors by making sure that all garbage is confined to the proper receptacles. Boats and buses must have trash cans. Special care should be taken with plastic that is not biodegradable. No littering of any kind should be tolerated. When possible, travelers should use returnable or reusable containers.

5. Wildlife and natural habitats must not be needlessly disturbed. Visitors should stay on the trails, remain within designated areas, and not collect anything (except litter). Some ecosystems such as coral reefs and caves are particularly sensitive, and special care should be taken to avoid damaging them. Visitors should keep their distance from wildlife so it is not compelled to take flight. Animal courtship, nesting, or feeding of young must not be interrupted. Birds and their nests should be observed from a safe distance through binoculars. Nesting sea turtles should be observed only with the assistance of a trained guide. Photographers also should keep their distance: foliage should not be removed from around nests, and animals should not be molested for the sake of a picture. Monkeys and other wild animals should not be fed, because this alters their diet and behavior.

6. There must be no commerce in wildlife, wildlife products, native plants, or archaeological artifacts. Strict international laws prohibit the purchase or transport of endangered wildlife and archaeological artifacts. tourists should not buy or collect Any wildlife and should make sure that the natural products they wish to purchase are commercially grown. Wood crafts generally constitute a viable economic option for local artisans and tourists should encourage local production from sustainable timber sources.

7. Tourists should leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of nature, conservation, and the environment. Visits to parks, preserves, archaeological sites and recreational areas should be lead by experienced, well-trained and responsible naturalists and guides. guides should be able to provide proper supervision of the visitors; prevent disturbances to the area; answer questions of the visitors regarding flora and fauna, history and culture, and describe the conservation issues relevant to the area.

8. Ecotourism should strengthen conservation efforts and enhance the natural integrity of places visited. Companies offering “ecotourism” must show even greater concern for the natural areas visited, involving tourists in conservation efforts. tour operators should collaborate with conservation organizations and government agencies to find ways to improve Costa Rica’s environmental programs. Visitors should be made aware of Costa Rica’s great achievements as well as the problems . The best tour operators will find ways for interested tourists to voice their support of conservation programs by writing letters of support, planting a tree, contributing money, volunteering to work in a park, or other creative outlets for concerned activism. If tour operators, tourists, government agencies, conservation and development organizations work together, ecotourism in Costa Rica can continue to grow, visitors will leave this country satisfied and enriched, and local efforts to conserve our natural heritage will be stronger and more diverse.

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