The Certification of Sustainable Tourism (CST) is a Costa Rican program intended to balance three basic factors within the tourism industry. These factors include the company's interaction with natural and cultural resources, the improvement of quality of life within local communities and economic contribution to other programs of national development.
It is within these contextual factors that Costa Rica has proactively taken a stand to abstain from the unwarranted alteration or destruction of natural, social and cultural resources. Costa Rica has emerged as a leader in sustainable tourism because without the diversity of the natural environment, a healthy society and a thriving cultural heritage Costa Rica would loose its attractiveness and the qualities that make it an unique place to live and travel.
The CST program has the intent to educate both tourism and non tourism companies in Costa Rica to embrace a long term perspective on the protection and maintenance of the most valuable resources of Costa Rica; the health of the environment, the health of the Costa Rican citizens and the health of communities within the country.
The goals of the CST program are to turn the concept of sustainability into something real and practical for both the companies providing services within Costa Rica and for visitors wishing to participate and support sustainable tourism practices by choosing the companies that have adopted sustainable practices.
The Certification of Sustainable Tourism hopes to encourage companies to adopt a sustainable orientation in every business decision, with the goal being wide spread use of recycled products, proper disposal and treatment of waste, the implementation of water and energy saving devices, conservation and expansion of Costa Rican forests as well as better systems of information management, among others.
The rating system used by the CST is essentially a set of standards that categorized and certify each company according to the degree to which its operations comply to a model of sustainability. The following sectors are evaluated by the CST as a means to measure a company’s sustainability index:
Physical-biological Parameters: Evaluates the interaction between the company and the surrounding habitat.
Infrastructure and Services: Evaluates the management policies and the operation systems within the company and its infrastructure.
External Clients: Evaluates the interaction of the company with its clients in terms of how much it allows and invites the client to be active contributor to the company’s policies of sustainability.
Socio-economic Environment: Evaluates the interaction of the company with the local communities and the population in general.
Within each of the context specific sectors various questions are addressed and scored to evaluate how closely the company embraces the model of sustainability. The measurement index uses a scale of 0 to 5 levels of sustainability. This measurement model is intended to reflect a level of sustainability just as 0 to 5 stars is intended to reflect the level of accommodation experience one has at a hotel, 1 star being pretty basic and 5 stars being outstanding.
A hotel that meets Level 1 sustainability has scored between the 20 and 39 percentile on the evaluation criteria and means that the company has taken the first steps toward the process of sustainability. A level 3 hotel means that they have scored within the 60-79 percentiles and have implemented a variety of the sustainability guidelines. A level 5 hotel means they are in the 95% or higher percentile and indicates that the company has scored high in all sustainability measures and is considered outstanding.