In this article you will learn about a community-based rural tourism initiative not to be missed on your next trip to Costa Rica. It offers a unique experience in the Osa Peninsula and has a very important positive impact on local communities.
Location and natural resources
The Osa Peninsula is located in the South Pacific area of Costa Rica, in the Brunca region. The peninsula is divided between the townships of Osa and Golfito, together totaling 3 684km2 or 7.2% of the Costa Rican territory.
Economic and social context
The region stands out because of the apparent contradictions between growth and conservation on its territory. Since the end of the 1930s, the Costa Rican state has set up big monocultures in the region; banana first, and now African oil palm. In a context of great biodiversity and an economy focused towards agriculture and tourism, communities face both challenges and opportunities in order to improve their well-being and quality of life.
Tourism in the Osa Peninsula
Many tourists choose to visit the Osa Peninsula because 80% of its territory is protected and is home to 2.5% of the planet’s biodiversity. However, only a few service providers receive most of the activity, one of them being the Corcovado National Park which has become overcrowded after an increase in the number of visitors. Unfortunately, communities at the centre of the peninsula were reduced to transit points, lagging behind with their touristic offers. The tourism industry also suffers from endemic problems that hinder the implication of local actors and prevents them from enjoying the advantages it provides. This results in a lack of reinforcement of the region as a real destination with a defined image, low self-esteem of the population, lack of a clear cultural identity, insufficient quality of the touristic products and services, and a weakness in marketing channels.
Inital state: A big part of the revenues generated by tourism go to modern hotels located near Corcovado or the coast as well as to airlines. Touristic activities should also affect communities within the peninsula.
Socio-economic objective of Caminos de Osa: promote the integral development of communities, thanks to a tourism industry that associates nature and culture, by organizing them along three pilgrimage routes. The association Caminos de Osa, ACO, plays an important role. It aims to be a voice for the region’s needs, an official canal of political influence and a manager in the promotion of this destination.
Environmental objective of Caminos de Osa: contribute to the conservation of ACOSA’s protected areas and its ecosystem services.
Actors that benefit from the organization: 40 touristic businesses, approximately 150 family members, 5 local tour operators, 50 non-touristic local businesses, integrated development associations, guides, tourists, etc.
Participatory approach: a process that originates in the community and aims to turn it into a protagonist that can take on the leadership via the ACO. It focuses on personal development, empowerment and self-esteem.
Inter-institutional co-ordination: the association works together with the Sate’s institutions, such as the presidency, the MINAE, the MEIC, the TIC, the IMAS, the INAMU, the tourism consortium, the Competitiveness Council of Brunca, etc.
The tourism marketing chain
Finding a place in the market and attracting customers is a big challenge for local touristic businesses in rural areas. Investing in international marketing is very expensive, requires a lot of connections and is overall a difficult task for small businesses. In this context, Caminos de Osa’s strategy is to create strong commercial connections, based on trust and commitment, with local and national entrepreneurs and with tour operators.
Caminos de Osa itinerary proposal
A “Caminos de Osa” catalogue was developed. It describes each route’s itinerary along with daily activities, schedules, visiting sites, degree of difficulty from 1 to 10, meals included and characteristics of the accommodation. Each itinerary connects a number of local services: accommodation, food services, guided and themed tours, transportation and more. Businesses with similar offers, such as accommodation, are designated in turn so that they all receive visitors and benefit from the positive impacts. Whenever possible, the routes should go in the Corcovado National Park at one point of the journey so that it is part of the offer, without being the main attraction. To learn everything you need to know on the Caminos de Osa touristic offer, visit their website.
Several accommodations from the Caminos de Osa initiative are already on VAOLO !