Every year more and more foreigners arrive in the country interested in learning about Costa Rican indigenous reserves. 15 out of 24 indigenous territories are working on ethnotourism programs that contribute with indigenous communities’ local development.
This is quite a challenge for those ethnic groups because they must keep a balance between culture and economic development in order to achieve success among a population with high rates of unemployment and poverty within the country.
José Guevara, Ethnotourism.org founder, explains that this kind of alternative tourism has been widely accepted because it is a different opportunity, where the visitor embarks on an adventure to be in touch with indigenous communities that can offer different culinary experiences and cultural events.
It’s an unique experience, as it allows a cultural exchange with a different ethnic group, in which the visitor is going to be welcomed into the way of living of the community like the gastronomy, dances and other cultural expressions. In addition, the costs are quite affordable,
explained Guevara who indicated that this trend in South American countries is very popular.
Tourist activities have reached the territories of Bribri, Cabécar, Térraba Brörän, Bruncas, Boruca, Rey Curre, Quitirrisí, Jamaikiri Nairi Awari, Ngöbes, Guatusos and Salitre.
The first tourist activity in the indigenous territories, began in the late eighties with the women from Stibrawpa Yorkín group in Talamanca, as told by Jorge Cole, who represents the Asociación Comunitaria Conservacionista de Turismo Alternativo y Rural (ACTUAR). Currently, this group receives at least 1500 foreigners per year and benefits about 40 families in the area.
Since 2005 there are several areas that have been promoted by ethnic groups’ own initiative, it is a process that has been growing because the communities have seen that tourism can be somewhat complementary to their lifestyle,
Both Cole and Guevara, agree that ethnotourism is not well known locally. However, in other countries the activity is producing positive results, and Europeans are the most common visitors.