GREENTIQUE MANAGEMENT BIO
In 1993, Jim Damalas opened Hotel Si Como No in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, with the first 6 rooms, as the first of a collection of sustainability-minded properties that would become Greentique Hotels Costa Rica in 2003 and expand in 2009 under the new brand name of Greentique Hotels (GTQH).
The commitment to what was at the time called eco-tourism was the driving force in Damalas’ quest to create sustainable hospitality operations in Costa Rica. In his vision, sustainable hospitality included a commitment to rural communities to participate in the economic growth triggered by the expansion of tourism in their Canton de Aguirre.
Greentique’s Priority for Rural Tourism
A top priority for GTQH in sustainable tourism is focused on rural settings to expand their commitment in sustainable economic development in regions of each hotel member, including the village of Santa Juana, in the area of Fila Chonta, within the section of the Talamanca mountain range overlooking Quepos and coastline of Manuel Antonio’s national park.
Protect a vanishing lifestyle – the village of Santa Juana, similar to other rural communities, was becoming compromised as opportunities were drawing the younger generation to seek employment with health care and other benefits outside the local farm community to sustain themselves thus abandoning family farms and traditions.
New Employment + Education — The goal of creating job positions for licensed Nature Interpreters and share their knowledge with both the community and hotel clientele on well-designed and purposeful rural tours. That included the development of forestry programs, new farming techniques, and highlight of local village hospitality through employment of services provided for the new tour operations. Also to provide employment for the tour farm operations and improvements of tour infrastructure as well as encourage micro-business opportunities for the residents utilizing proceeds from tour sales and donations.
Rural Tour Concept
Create and deliver a unique and immersive guest experience in rural Costa Rican life combining nature, agriculture, adventure, education and authentic rural culture — all interactive with the local population. Ultimate goal is to benefit the guest with a truly “exceptional Costa Rica experience” that in turn benefits the community with employment, purpose and pride by sharing the guest commentary in surveys conveying the appreciation of tour experiences.
In the process of the acceptance of this concept by the community included the underwriting of several workshops with a sociologist from MINAE, the Ministry of Natural Resources, along with INBio, the Institute of Biodiversity, with social awareness/self esteem workshops and initiating community programs in rural tourism with micro industry themes.
The development of the “Santa Juana Rural Mountain Adventure Tour” required creating a complete and authentic experience for visitors including both education and adventure content that has become the highest rated tour SCN offers. This required the development of a 3 kilometer user-friendly trail through the primary and secondary humid tropical forest, with bridges, staircases, and switchbacks to enable clients to easily traverse the jungle landscape down to Rio Rodeo, including easy access to waterfalls and courtesy guest changing rooms, ranchos for livestock, tilapia fishing ponds, meditation/yoga platforms, horse stables and upgraded road access. Also the village where a restoration of a Campesino style rancho now hosts clients for meals and workshops. Also public bathrooms and showers as well as a recreation of an original sugar cane mill with oxen known as a Trapiche, and HD customized 4×4 vehicle for tour transportation that’s properly licensed for off road vehicles.
Including the purchase that now totals 1000 acres of now protected forest, pastures, watershed (2 river origins), natural springs, new construction of houses for local families who have relocated in the community, several kilometers of restored roads and new water system for the community that now includes meters to conserve/measure consumption. Working with ICE, the Institute of Communications and Electricity, the availability of electricity and satellite Internet for computers for the local school as well as the first pay phone and emergency telephone service.
Facts about new jobs created, projects initiated, projects completed, partners and alliances that helped make it possible. Five families in the village have members working for the tour operations, agriculture and conservation projects, including policies of water monitoring and garbage recycling. Electricity and ICE satellite dish were introduced into the village of 43 members after 60 years with only basic water supply. The reintroduction with a Lapa Release Program, pupa butterfly project and the Pulperia Coop are pending projects on the agenda for 2015. Water conservation and reforestation projects are working well and supported partially be donations through Gloval giving and the Corcovado Foundations and by voluntary $1.00 donations of Si Como No Resort customers. Finally the vigilance against hunting in the area and contamination of water sources and deforestation have made significant progress in the entire region of Fila Chonta.
Impacts of GTQH initiatives are managed carefully as an ongoing priority. As the area becomes recognized via tourism with the introduction and promotion of local tours, benefits include road improvements, support by the municipality in road maintenance through community programs fostered by the Santa Juana Water, Church, Road and School Committees to include a proposed zoning plan that are in the works that will include restrictions on construction and types of commercial operations permitted for any type of business that might contaminate watershed or the flora or fauna , create sound pollution, or other negative impact resulting from lack of community planning.
Matching Funding Incentives
Incentive policies enabled programs to support improvements for the school, church, water system and road maintenance. No funding is provided directly by GTQH or Si Como No guest donations ($1.00 per night’s stay) but rather through community activities, volunteer projects, and other investments in which support is earned and not donated or gifted directly so that the efforts are made by community ownership and execution of initiatives and self esteem is not compromised where ever possible.