GNF - Transforming Tourism, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic

Transforming Tourism

Biodiversity and Tourism in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic


Together for a turnaround in tourism

Becoming sustainable is not easy. It requires not only new methods but also new thinking. A fundamental turnaround in tourism. This transformation of tourism can only succeed with the cooperation of all stakeholders involved. The joint and committed work towards a turnaround in tourism is the basis for the project.


Biodiversity and Tourism

Biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided by nature are of outstanding importance for a permanently good quality of life for people worldwide. The partner countries in this project are considered so-called biodiversity hotspots, where there is a very pronounced diversity of species, some of which are endemic. This high level of biodiversity not only fulfils important ecosystem functions, but as a natural offering it also represents a very important tourist attraction and thus safeguards the local economic basis for many people directly or indirectly employed in tourism.

The Destinations 


Dominican Republic

The social situation in the Dominican Republic is characterised by strong social inequality. According to the World Bank, over 30 % of Dominicans live below the poverty line (just under 6 % in extreme poverty). A lack of or poorly developed infrastructure in the country, power and water supply problems as well as rising crime and uncontrolled migration are further aspects that influence the society in the country and create social tensions.


Las Galeras is a Dominican village on the east coast of the Samaná peninsula and is included as a destination in the project. The population of Las Galeras is mainly employed in tourism, fishing and agriculture. The region is known for its beautiful beaches, different types of ecosystems, a wide range of biodiversity, which is especially appreciated when hiking, and the safety of the region. Among the essential ecosystems of Las Galeras are the coastal and Marine ecosystems: dense tropical rainforest, coral reefs and mangrove forests. Mangrove forests are among the most resilient, productive and species-rich ecosystems in the world. In recent years, Las Galeras has experienced an increasing influx of tourists - not least because of its unique natural beauty.


Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity. Costa Rica has the reputation of being the richest country in Central America, nevertheless, the country is characterised by an huge discrepancy between rich and poor. The most important economic sectors in Costa Rica is agriculture, with the four main agricultural products bananas, coffee, beef and sugar. Tourism is now the country's most important source of foreign exchange, around 8 % of Costa Rica's GDP is generated by tourism. In 2018 alone, more than 3 million tourists came to Costa Rica.


Sarapiquí is a canton in the province of Heredia in Costa Rica and is one of the poorest regions of the country. In total, about 57,000 inhabitants live in the destination Sarapiquí. Sarapiquí is home to a number of nature reserves and national parks, including the Braulio Carrillo National Park. The tourism industry - especially ecotourism - has developed strongly in recent years thanks to the leisure activities in the Sarapiquí River.


Sarchí is located 1,000 meters above sea level on the slopes of the Central Mountain Range on the eastern edge of the Central Valley. Sarchí is the most famous handicraft center of Costa Rica. The town has more than 200 shops and small family-run woodworking businesses. Sarachí is also well known for its immense biodiversity and is a popular tourist destination.


 Austrian Development Agency - ADA
 Biotop Landschaftsgestaltung GmbH

Models of action

  1. Climate-neutral pilot hotels - maximum resource efficiency (electricity and water), use of solar energy and, if applicable, biogas, sustainable gastronomy with consistent avoidance of food; networks of local procurement, behaviour-oriented communication to kitchen staff and guests, composting, avoidance of waste, green filters for waste water, compensation payments for biodiversity actions, roof and facade greening, investment in water-efficient infrastructure and leisure facilities / hikes for guests with a link to biodiversity and raising awareness of climate-neutral business practices
  2. Zero plastic destinations - plastic reduction and replacement as an entry into the 'zero waste destination' with general waste reduction, waste separation, recycling, local cycles, promotion of local organic producers, small craftsmen, local recycling centres for waste separation and recycling, service providers and start ups, etc.
  3. Certified sustainable catering businesses - reduction of food waste, resource efficiency, adapting menus to local conditions, building networks for local procurement and production, training and managing kitchen staff, communicating sustainable catering offers to employees and guests.
  4. Pilot Actions Climate Neutral Destination - Entry into the process of developing a climate neutral destination based on the climate neutral hotels, educational and communication programmes on resource efficiency and sustainable gastronomy, consulting of the accommodations and largest energy consumers in resource efficiency, promotion of renewable energy facilities, investments in reforestation and biodiversity, waste recovery and recycling, networks for local procurement and development of closed loop recycling management, biological waste water treatment in accommodations and at destination level, qualification of consultants and multipliers; Exchange of experience and conferences for the dissemination of the model, etc.
  5. Market positioning of climate and biodiversity-friendly travel products - development and market positioning of innovative travel products of the certified destinations together with European tour operators; sensitisation of travellers and enthusiasm for the exemplary sustainable travel products.

Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

The project should make a concrete contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the international community of sustainable tourism & biodiversity.

 Goal 8: Promote sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
 Goal 15: Protect, restore and encourage the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, manage forests sustainably, combat desertification, reverse land degradation and halt the loss of biodiversity
 Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production
 Goal 17: Strengthen implementation capacity and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
 Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects
 Goal 14: Conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources

Contact Person


Mr. Dr. Thomas Schaefer

Global Nature Fund (GNF) – Office Radolfzell

Phone: +49 7732 9995 89


Project Partners

 KATE Umwelt & Entwicklung
 Module University Vienna

Project Period:


Project Countries:





Project Partners:

January 2020 - December 2022


Dominican Republic, Costa Rica


Austrian Development Agency - ADA, Austria

Biotop Landschaftsgestaltung GmbH, Austria


KATE Umwelt & Entwicklung e.V., Germany

TourCert gGmbH, Germany

Module University Vienna, Austria