Responsible tourism – API Blog

Today’s blog post comes to us API alumni & Drake University student Aspen Walters! She studied abroad with us in San Jose, Costa Rica and during that time she learned all about responsible tourism! She’s sharing her thoughts with us today.

Aspen waters and coworkers on Finca La Flor

“In the Spring of 2018 I had the privilege of studying abroad in San José, Costa Rica.  

I picked this country because of its commitment to taking care of its environment. I am currently studying sustainability and resilience at Drake University. When I lived in Costa Rica it gave me the opportunity to see sustainable policies and practices on a national level.  

Finca La Flor, a farm that teaches responsible tourism & sustainability

During my semester I was able to stay at a local commune called Finca la Flor where I learned about how their zero waste practices and how the group used the land as well as gave back to it.

I also learned about the Blue Flag (Bandera Azul Ecológica) award, a voluntary eco-label that tourist locations have to qualify for in Costa Rica. From beaches to fisherman communities, the government of Costa Rica awards this honor to locations that take care of their environment. They must meet requirements like having clean oceans, trash-free beaches, showers, restrooms, and waste disposal programs. Being able to see and learn from a country that recognizes their rich natural resources and wants to protect their environment was so inspiring.

As a tourist I have learned how important it is to respect the environment that you are visiting because that is someone else’s home.  

Whether the government protects the area or not, it is your responsibility to try to make as little of an impact as you can on the environment. Along with respecting the environment, another aspect of responsible tourism is the people.  When you visit another country you are witnessing people’s lives and communities, not walking through a museum. Therefore, your approach to tourism should look different. It is not always the best time to take a picture of what you are seeing. There were many times in Costa Rica where I wish I could have taken a picture of what I was experiencing but it was just not an appropriate time. I believe that knowing how to be respectful of other people’s privacy is an important aspect of travel.  

 

With my API global leadership position, I have been able to dive deeper into this topic of responsible tourism. I decided to host an event concerning this issue at my university.  

I came across a documentary called, “Crowded Out: The Story of Overtourism”. After showing the film, we had a panel of four people (two professors and two students). They shared their experiences living in other countries or as tourists. The documentary and discussion brought to light some of the negative aspects of tourism and the effect that massive amounts of tourists are currently having on local communities.  Tourism can alter the community and structure of cities and even countries.

To be able to experience the world is such a gift, but what I have learned is that travel comes with responsibility.

Being able to showcase this to my peers was a wonderful experience and helped me gain more understanding towards tourism and travel as a whole.”

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