The C.S.T. Program developed by the Sustainability Program Department of the Costa Rica Tourist Board and the Costa Rica National Accreditation Commission.
Gaia Boutique Hotel & Reserve located in Manuel Antonio, Quepos, has been awarded the level of four leaves, placing Gaia in the top 5% of all hotels in Costa Rica that are registered for the CST program and the top 1% of all Costa Rica hotels whether registered or not in the program. We are striving for our fifth and final leaf for our next evaluation period.
What is CST all about?
It is a program that seeks to categorize and certify each tourism company according to the degree to which its operations comply to a model of sustainability. To this effect, four fundamental aspects are evaluated:
1.- Physical-biological parameters
Evaluates the interaction between the company and its surrounding natural habitat.
2.- Infrastructure and services
Evaluates the management policies and the operational systems within the company and its infrastructure.
3.- External clients
Evaluates the interaction of the company with its clients in terms of how much it allows and invites the client to be an active contributor to the company’s policies of sustainability.
Evaluates the interaction of the company with the local communities and the population in general.
For each and every one of these items a list of specific questions was designed to help evaluate how thoroughly the firm complies with a series of standards previously established for the social, environmental and economics fields. Each and every one of the questions refers to an element of sustainability from which the firm should comply in order to qualify in any one of the different stages or levels of fulfilment, which for our purposes we have labelled “levels”. The final rating will be assigned to the company in question according to the lowest level achieved in any of the four fields evaluated.
To measure and fix these different levels, the CST program provides a system of “sustainability levels”, on a scale of 0 to 5 in which each number indicates the relative position of the firm in terms of sustainability. This scheme provides a way to classify the tourist firms in terms of “levels” in a system very similar to the commercial categorization of hotels by means of the well known stars system.
What are the implications of the CST?
- For the national tourism industry
At the national level, CST represents a new form of competition; a new way to differentiate our tourist industry with respect to our competitors, and one which enhances those tourism products which show a connotation of sustainability, opening new possibilities for marketing and international promotion.
On the other hand, this program directly attacks the problem generated by the unethical behavior of some companies operating as “greenwashers” (abusing the concepts of “eco” and/or “sustainability”), by providing reliable information on the firms that are really making progress in producing a tourist product that is sustainable. Undoubtedly, this will enhance the country’s image as an authentic naturalist tourist destination, thus increasing considerably the competitiveness of our national tourism product.
- For the tourism business person
This program provides the business person with an opportunity for utilizing a new element of competition, based on a new way of differentiating his product, a concept that will be fully reinforced and enhanced in the national and international tourism promotional programs.
The CST motivates tourism executives to improve their use of company resources, promoting savings and their efficient utilization. This will have a positive impact not only on the quality of the product, but also on the cost-benefit ratio of the firm, as well. For example, the use of energy-saving technologies and devices promotes and improves the quality of the product in terms of sustainability and, at the same time, produces a significant reduction in the cost of these services.
- For other productive sectors
The CST program is a spear head that incentivizes development and production of goods and services by firms with a sustainable orientation. The demand for recyclable and reusable products, for water and energy-saving devices, for efficient systems for the proper disposal of waste matter, for better systems of information management, as well as many others, will be the key that opens a new market for products that are environmentally friendly. This will strengthen an industrial sector that operates within parameters of sustainability, and a sector that, within a medium-range time frame, will be able to supply as well the needs of other productive sectors, generating a synergy and a globally positive balance in terms of sustainability.
The C.S.T. Program was developed by the Sustainability Programs Department of the Costa Rica Tourist Board and the Costa Rica National Accreditation Commission