This is the conclusion of an eight-part series that examines how Bodhi Surf School ranks as an ecotourism destination; read parts six and seven, here.
Throughout this series, we have analyzed how successfully Bodhi Surf School has embodied the principles of Ecotourism, as outlined by Martha Honey in “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise?” As a summary, Honey writes, “[Ecotourism involves] travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (often) small scale. It helps educate the traveler, provides funds for conservation, directly benefits the economic development and political empowerment of local communities, and fosters respect for different cultures and for human rights”, (Honey 33). How does Bodhi Surf School foster respect for and understanding of human rights?
Building bridges across communities and cultures
The Bodhi team testifies, “Our mission is to provide memorable travel experiences that facilitate learning through exposure to the people and environment of the place we call home. The United Nations World Tourism Organization proclaims that tourism contributes to ‘international understanding, peace, prosperity, and universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all’ and we believe our responsible tourism practices accomplish this.” Bodhi Surf has worked diligently to develop a business model that exemplifies this statement. This tangible effects of this tenet of ecotourism may be the most abstract to measure.
By caring for the environment and its resources that humans rely on, Bodhi Surf respects the local and global communities. Bodhi utilizes tour operators that comply with sustainable standards as defined by the Costa Rica Tourism Institute’s Certificate of Sustainable Tourism (CST). The CST “is a program that categorizes and certifies tourism businesses, with the goal of demonstrating sustainability within their operations. In order to achieve this, the CST evaluates the following fundamental factors, among others:
- The business takes measures to avoid emissions, harmful products and pollution.
- It implements conservation and natural risk reduction measures.
- The business efficiently handles waste that it produces.
- It uses natural, biodegradable, and recyclable products.
- It has a water and electrical energy conservation program.
- It offers its clients the opportunity to participate in conservation and communal development initiatives.
To view the complete list of criteria, see here.
Involvement at different levels
Bodhi also joins community-based movements and groups and help facilitate collaborations amongst different stakeholders at different levels (local, regional, and international). Locally, Bodhi is helping to develop a Water Treatment Plan along with community players, the local water office ASADA, and the Central States Water and Environment Association. They also partner with The Alliance of Community Organizations project, and support local grassroots organizations, which are outlined below. Bodhi supports and mentors businesses in Caminos de Osa, an initiative that was founded on preserving local culture and integrates indigenous populations. This is an intentional project aimed at facilitating cross-cultural communication in Costa Rica, specifically of people with different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Bodhi links their guests with opportunities to contribute to organizations that support human rights, specifically ASANA, Forjando Alas, and Geoporter. ASANA, a local non-profit, is working with local, private landowners to secure the area so that the development they do in the future is more sustainable. Geoporter is a GPS/GIS technology education non-profit, and Forjando Alas is an after school educational program for the youth of the Bahía Ballena community. These are resources that would not be readily available to local individuals if not for these movements.
Bodhi Surf School’s Travelers’ Philanthropy Program (TPP) provides resources for grassroots movements, including the organizations listed above. The TPP is set up to donate 2% of the profits for each Bodhi vacation package purchased 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 for these grassroots programs. Bodhi also teams with the Costa Rica – USA Foundation for Cooperation, which has donated over $54 million USD since its inception.
Internationally, Bodhi Surf has partnered with the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC). Their mission is described on their website: “Plastic Pollution Coalition is a global alliance of individuals, organizations, businesses and policymakers working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals, the ocean and the environment.” Furthermore, Bodhi collaborates with the Peace Corps of Costa Rica, another agency that works to bridge different cultures and impact local communities.
Supporting human rights and democratic movements can materialize in many different forms. Bodhi Surf links their guests to human rights organizations, including facilitating monetary donations to such organizations, which support democratic movements. They also work directly with several of these organizations. And indeed, this is a critical aspect of ecotourism. Honey sheds light on this significance, writing, “Although tourism is often glibly hailed as a tool for building international understanding and world peace, this does not happen automatically; frequently, in fact, tourism bolsters the economies of repressive and undemocratic states”, (Honey 31). The folks at Bodhi are constantly brainstorming ways to authentically lend themselves to local and global movements toward environmental and human rights. A work in progress, their efforts to expand are multifaceted, reaching into several different sectors of these greater missions.
Written by Sam Rose