Part five of an eight-part series that examines how Bodhi Surf School ranks as an ecotourism destination, read part four here
So far in this blog series, we have explored how Bodhi Surf School measures up to Martha Honey’s seven tenets of ecotourism. We learned how Bahia Bahia-Uvita is a natural paradise, how Bodhi ranks in terms of minimizing their environmental impact, and how they raise awareness for the environment. Providing direct financial benefits for conservation is the fourth requisite that Martha Honey provides as a principle of ecotourism. Honey writes, “Ecotourism helps raise funds for environmental protection, research, and education through a variety of mechanisms including park entrance fees… and voluntary contributions.” (Honey, 30) Read on to see how Bodhi Surf gives back to conservation efforts via their daily business routines, as well as more external contributions.
Contributing to Costa Rica’s national park system
Bodhi Surf School holds all of their surf lessons within the boundaries of Marino Ballena National Park. Because it is a smaller national park, with fewer visitors annually than some of the others in Costa Rica, it still has a relatively low entrance fee of $6 USD (or 3,000 colones) per visitor per day. Martha Honey writes, “[Circa 1990] Costa Rica became ineligible for foreign aid because of its relatively high standard of living and relatively well-protected system of national parks. When donations for national parks began to fade and the government entered a fiscal crisis, it turned for the first time to tourism to provide substantial funding for the parks.” (Honey, 171) Every time Bodhi Surf School enters the national park for a surf lesson, they pay $6 USD per visitor, bringing anywhere from 2-15 guests and sometimes holding lessons every day of the week. Furthermore, Bodhi Surf both partners with and endorses local tour companies, such as Bahia Aventuras, who also provide their services within and pay entrance fees to the national park.
Service and Surf Saturdays occurs on the first Saturday of every month from 8-11am, and involves individuals meeting at the community beach entrance to Playa Chaman (at Marino Ballena National Park) for a beach cleanup and subsequent surf lesson. Bodhi Surf provides the gloves, buckets, and bags needed to clean up, as well as the surfboards and lessons. Geoporter and Forjando Alas, local, non-profit organizations, also participate in and collaborate with this monthly event. By donating their resources and time directly, Bodhi Surf has a direct financial impact on the community.
Voluntary donations and programs
Bodhi Surf School’s Travelers’ Philanthropy Program (TPP) donates 2% of the profits for each vacation package back to three local, non-profit organizations, as a token of gratitude and support for local businesses whose work directly benefits the community of Bahia-Ballena-Uvita. The TPP brought in $970 in 2015. [Note: Although this is not a direct financial benefit, it is a donation worth noting.]
In 2015 and 2016, Bodhi Surf donated several vacation packages to organizations that they believed were worthy. One weeklong surf and yoga camp was donated to the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)’s spring “Eco-Auction”, which contributed to their work in sustainable tourism, including their day-to-day operations, internship program, research, and TPP. Two surf and yoga vacations (a $5,000 total value) were donated to the Surfrider Foundation’s fundraising events this fall. This donation raised $11,000 for the Surfrider Foundation — a non-profit organization “dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches through a powerful activist network.” Bodhi Surf also donated a Bodhi session package for 2, valued at $2,600, to the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) last year. Even closer to home, Bodhi Surf contributed a surf and yoga vacation package valued at $1,200 to Escuela Verde, a local school in Bahia Ballena, for their annual auction fundraiser in 2015. Lastly, in January, 2016, Klean Kanteen held a fundraiser for their partner, 5 Gyres, to which Bodhi Surf donated a Bodhi Flex package for 2 people, valued at $2,600.
A business model built upon giving back
The daily operations of Bodhi Surf School themselves provide direct financial benefits to the conservation of Costa Rica’s ecosystem. Because they hold their surf lessons within Marino Ballena National Park, they are contributing by paying park fees for every guest. By holding the voluntary, monthly event of “Service and Surf Saturdays”, they are donating their time and resources directly to the community. Furthermore, in 2015, Bodhi Surf School donated surf and yoga vacation packages totaling thousands of dollars, which included donations to auction events, raising thousands more for similar conservation efforts. When asked why they do it, business owners agree: protecting their home and the marine environment is in part selfish — they know that neither they nor their business would thrive or grow without the wellbeing of these entities. So, in this area of ecotourism, Bodhi Surf School excels; and as they continue to grow, they are looking forward on how to contribute even more.
Read the next chapter of the series here
Written by Sam Rose