Meeting and event planners are working to incorporate more wellness-focused elements and reduce their environmental impact as the industry’s goals shift. Costa Rica has been a leader in prioritizing personal well-being and environmental sustainability for decades.
Costa Rica has been a rising star as a meetings and events destination over the last few years. The country was ranked number one on Global DMC Partners’ 2019 Meeting & Incentive Destination ‘hot list’ last year and is the ninth most frequently chosen country in Latin America to host meetings, according to information from the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
The hype makes sense: With its state-of-the-art accessibility and connectivity, lush natural environment, and advanced infrastructure, the Central American powerhouse offers everything a destination needs to make it a prime destination for meetings. And beyond these essentials, meeting planners are also tuning in to Costa Rica’s wellness offerings and sustainability initiatives which can help meetings stand out and offer a transformational and eco-conscious experience.
Wellness Is No Longer an Afterthought
Gone are the days when meeting planners could add a veneer of “well-being” to their events via access to a gym and a spa treatment or two. Wellness-oriented activities and perspectives are now integral to many events as planners recognize that productivity gets a boost when paired with rejuvenation and relaxation.
The focus on wellness in events reflects a larger societal trend: The wellness industry was worth $4.2 trillion worldwide in 2017 after growing 6 percent annually since 2015, according to the Global Wellness Institute.
Meeting and event attendees are increasingly arriving open and enthusiastic about wellness activities, and Costa Rica is brimming with such resources that can enhance any meeting. The country prides itself on its well-being — it ranks at the top of the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index, which measures the well-being, life expectancy, ecological footprint, and level of inequality in countries around the world.
The country’s happy, green-living people know a thing or two about how to relax and enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. Meeting planners can incorporate a wealth of activities to get their attendees moving and enjoying nature. Hiking, biking, birdwatching, swimming, surfing, and zip-lining are only a few of the many options the country offers.
Costa Rica’s hotels and meeting spaces are focused in three regions that each offer many opportunities for wellness activities: Guanacaste, Central Pacific, and Central Valley.
With 400 miles of Pacific coastline, Guanacaste features tropical Tamarindo beach and cultural traditions such as rodeos featuring local cowboys, folk music, and parades. In the middle part of the country’s Pacific coast, the Central Pacific region is home to beaches such as Jacó, Manuel Antonio National Park, and Playa Hermosa, and parks like Carara Biological Reserve. And home to capital city San José, the Central Valley features the country’s best museums, including the Gold Museum, National Museum, and Costa Rican Art Museum, as well as stunning natural areas such as Poás Volcano National Park.
“The beauty of Costa Rica is we can offer a great diversity because we have very high mountains between two oceans,” Maria Amalia Revelo, Costa Rica’s minister of tourism, said in an interview with Skift at Skift Global Forum in 2019. “You can really do so many things in Costa Rica.”
Whether a meeting planner wants the event itinerary to include a boat tour, yoga session on the beach, museum visit, or hike up a volcano, Costa Rica has options that will provide attendees with an added element of well-being and enjoyment to busy days.
The Sustainable Future of Meetings and Events
Sustainability is another topic that’s increasingly top of mind for meeting and event planners. Destinations with eco-friendly credentials can give a meeting a special appeal and reduce the event’s environmental footprint.
Costa Rica has long been a leader in sustainability. The country uses renewable resources to produce 93 percent of its electricity, and almost one-third of its area is protected natural land that is maintained via taxes on the sale of fossil fuels. Its ambitions in the area of sustainability are impressive: Costa Rica is working to become the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2021.
Ecotourism is a big piece of Costa Rica’s leadership in sustainability. With so much land under protection and natural resources like volcanos, beaches, caves, forests, and hot springs, there is ample opportunity for visitors to coexist in harmony with nature at eco-resorts, forest lodges, and jungle retreats. Meeting and event planners can take advantage of this strong ecotourism focus to design unique and memorable events that incorporate the natural world and a sustainability ethos.
“We want to attract the tourism that will help us take care of our country — our beautiful nature, our values, our people, our children,” said Revelo.
Even those meeting attendees who don’t access the country’s eco-lodges will be able to enjoy a “green” visit. San José Costa Rica Convention Center features environmentally responsible design. The new facility — which has a capacity of up to 4,600 — incorporates elements like a reflective roof, water-conserving fixtures, efficient climate control, solar panels, LED lighting, and native trees both inside and outside the venue.
Other venues, hotels, and businesses across Costa Rica also strive to be sustainable and community minded. Planners can look for specific certifications to ensure that they are doing business with those who work to protect the natural and cultural resources of the country. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) rates businesses from 0 to 5 on how well they uphold particular sustainable practices, including if they help their clients contribute to sustainability. The Bandera Azul (Blue Flag) Ecological Program gives communities across the country a “blue flag” when they live up to standards for safety, cleanliness, civic engagement, and environmental-friendliness.
Meetings and events in Costa Rica can take advantage of all the work that the country’s government has done over the last four decades to push the national economy away from forest-destroying agriculture and towards ecotourism, conservation, and sustainable farming. The result has been to everyone’s advantage, for both Costa Ricans and visitors alike.