In the past decade or so, sustainability has become an increasingly important aspect of the tourism industry. One of the main leaders of this movement is Costa Rica. Over the years they have developed a thriving industry that successfully balances the economical benefits of tourism while also ensuring that the impact on the environment is not too large. Costa Rica has successfully done this by implementing a nationwide certification process. This process is known as the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) and is managed by the Costa Rican National Accreditation Commission. Their top priority is to improve the way that natural and social resources are utilized, promote active participation of local communities, and support competitiveness in the business sector.
Within this system there are 5 levels of achievement and they are based off of four main categories of performance. These categories are physical-biological parameters, infrastructure and services, external clients, and socio-economic environment.
A business’s level of achievement (measured by 5 leaves) is only as high as their lowest category. For example if a business receives 5 leaves for 3 categories but only 2 leaves for one, their overall rating is just 2 leaves. This can be a very long process for many hotels and tourism businesses but it is important that no aspect of sustainability be neglected.
Sustainability has played an important role in the HI Northwest Portland Hostel & Guesthouse since the beginning. There is no nationwide system such as the one in Costa Rica but all HI-USA hostels and affiliates are required to participate in some sort of 3rd party sustainable certification. The hostel currently receives 3rd party audits from the Sustainable Travel International (STI) accreditation service. The extremely extensive and uniform certification process of CST is something that the tourism industry here in the United States can learn from and continue to work towards achieving.