More and more travelers want to feel they are contributing in some way to the place where they vacation. Giving back while on vacation has become a global movement sparking volunteerism and community outreach with tourists.
In Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, two top hotels share a heartfelt program that lets their guests feel good about supporting the community there.
Hotel Tropico Latino and Florblanca Hotel implement the “$5 Check Out Program” that allows their guests to add an optional charge on their bill at the end of their stay to fund community and environmental programs in the Santa Teresa area. Created by Florblanca Hotel manager Cody Dillon in 2012, Hotel Tropico Latino manager Roberto de la Ossa quickly followed the lead of his friend. Both hotels have experienced such success, that De la Ossa wants to inspire others to get involved.
“We thought it was such a great initiative that we joined them. And we are inviting the rest of the Santa Teresa community and other areas of Costa Rica to do the same,” said De la Ossa. “If every business in town did this, the possibilities would be surprising.”
Hotel Tropico Latino adds an optional voluntary charge of $2 to each guest’s final bill, and is thinking to raise it to match Florblanca’s $5 charge. When you stay at these hotels, you can help keep the beaches clean, fund the local ocean lifeguards, or provide school kids with much needed supplies and programs – all for the price of a smoothie in Santa Teresa.
“This is something so simple to do, so small and easy. Every year we were struggling with finding a budget to help out with community initiatives. And in the end we decided to include our guests in our commitment to giving back,” explained De la Ossa. “It’s about giving back. It’s conscious business. We don’t want to just take from the area. We want to give back so the area stays nice and beautiful and is a great place to live and visit.”
Hotel Tropico Latino so far has focused on environmental programs like keeping the region’s beaches clean. The Santa Teresa beachfront hotel has donated $1,500 to the Santa Teresa Tourism Chamber to purchase and place trash and recycling bins at all of the main public beach access points. These Pacific beaches – Mal Pais, Playa Carmen, Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa – on the southern Nicoya Peninsula have been awarded Costa Rica’s Ecological Blue Flag for environmental purity.
Florblanca Hotel aids three nonprofit programs, following the catchphrase “Think Globally, Act Locally.” They are: the Fundación Aprendiendo Unidos (Learning Together Foundation) that provides resources to public school children from Santa Teresa and neighboring communities; the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeepers, which works to improve water quality in Santa Teresa; and the Santa Teresa Lifeguards, a new organization dedicated to saving lives and preventing dangerous accidents along the Santa Teresa area beaches.
“A lot of our guests would come to our hotel and read about our sustainability initiatives and would ask us how they could help. We really feel that travelers more and more really want to give back to the place that they journey to,” said Dillon. “We have never had anyone say to us, ‘Take this off of our bill.’ Every now and again, someone gets really inspired about one of our programs and leaves an extra $50 or $100, or more.”
“Every restaurant could charge 50 cents or $1. Every hotel could charge $2 or $5, and think of how much we could raise. Think of how much good we could do, helping out schools, reforestation, and environmental initiatives. It will only work on a large scale if more people join together,” he said.
“I could not agree more with Roberto,” added Dillon. “Of course, what we do helps. But if everyone in town were to do this – from small bungalows to restaurants to surf shops – they could put $1 or $2 extra on their clients’ bills, and if everything is handled in a very transparent way, I think the success rate would be very high.”
Article by Shannon Farley