13 April 2017
Over the last 19 years, the National Network of Cooperatives in Ecotourism (Cooprena), has set up a model for local development that utilizes community-based rural tourism as the economic trigger for its geographic area in Costa Rica. The aim of this cooperative consortium is to improve the life of rural community members by developing non-traditional tourism products, by promoting rural tourism and integrating the livelihoods and talents of each cooperative with the tourism industry.
Cooprena affiliates 23 organisations, including cooperatives, development associations, and tourism associations. It has implemented projects involving more than 40 communities in Costa Rica. The cooperative targets tourists who are interested in being immersed in Costa Rican culture, learning the language and eating typical dishes; its aim is to create a meaningful relationship between the tourist and host.
Each cooperative or location is helped by COOPRENA to generate new alternatives to diversify community products and to create a sustainable way of using natural resources. COOPRENA provides its members with technical assistance, training, funding, marketing and sales, as well as an administrative centre and the “Symbiosis Cooprena Tours” travel agency, which sells members’ touristic products. In providing all of these services it also promotes the cooperative model of rural community tourism.
A Cooprena spokesperson comments that, “the income generated enables cooperators to protect the natural and cultural heritage of this country, transforming it into an active income generator, thereby encouraging people to embrace a responsible development model. This will ensure that entire communities will be motivated to protect our wildlife areas and all natural life for everybody´s sake. It will also help to promote our cultural values and the natural human warmth of the people who live in the countryside.”