Hotel Tropico Latino
Tripadvisor - Certificate of Excellence - 2016

Giving back while on vacation in Santa Teresa Costa Rica

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.

Santa Teresa Costa Rica schoolchildren with Aprendiendo Unidos
Hotel Tropico Latino and Florblanca Hotel
implement an initiative called 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 initiatives in Santa Teresa. The program was begun by Florblanca Hotel manager Cody Dillon in 2012, and Hotel Tropico Latino manager Roberto de la Ossa quickly followed the lead of his friend. “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 charge of $2 to each guest’s final bill, and is thinking to raise it to match Florblanca’s $5 charge. For the price of a smoothie in Santa Teresa, 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.

Santa Teresa Costa Rica lifeguards
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.”

Beach garbage and recycling bins at Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
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 – have been awarded Costa Rica’s Ecological Blue Flag for environmental purity.

Beach cleanup community program in Santa Teresa Costa Rica
Upholding the catchphrase “Think Globally, Act Locally” in their sustainability program, Florblanca Hotel aids three nonprofit programs “that we think are well organized and properly managed,” noted Dillon. 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 the 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. Dillon said Florblanca gives a few thousand dollars a year, divided between these community organizations. The hotel requests reports on what their contributions go toward, and send the information, including also often photos, to their guests. She said their guest response over the years has only been positive. “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.”

Santa Teresa Costa Rica lifeguards, image by Tico Times
There are many community organizations that need assistance in Santa Teresa, said De la Ossa, adding that the contribution could be tax deductible for businesses. “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, it can only be good. There are so many things that need to be done, and it’s hard for us to only limit it to three. It is very easy to implement, and as long as it is communicated transparently, I think the success rate would be very high.” The difference made in the community creates a ripple effect, said Dillon. “When a hotel or restaurant or company does this, it is an incredible example to the staff,” she said. “It shows how we care about this place we call home and is an inspiration to the younger generations. For instance, with Aprendiendo Unidos, our contribution could make the difference between a child attending school or not.”

Santa Teresa Costa Rica schoolchildren with Aprendiendo Unidos
For more information on the $5 Check Out Programandhow you can get involved, contact Roberto de la Ossa at Hotel Tropico Latino or Cody Dillon at Florblanca.
Article by Shannon Farley