Sustainability as a model for development raises the need to satisfy the current requirements of society without compromising the right of future generations to meet theirs. In other words, this means that the country's development cannot rely on the excessive exploitation of resources (natural, cultural, social, etc.), to the point of exhausting them or destroy them, trying to meet the current needs of the population (food, housing, health, employment, etc.). The resources available now are the same that future generations of this country will have to meet their own needs.
As for tourism, sustainability means a way of developing the economic activity that may solve the current risky industrial situations and avoid growth dynamics, which are creating economic, social, cultural and ecological imbalances. This definition in operational terms, results in a balanced interaction of three basic factors of the tourism industry:
1- The appropriate use of our natural and cultural resources.
2- Improving the quality of life of local communities.
3- Economic success, which may contribute to other national development programs.
Sustainable tourism is not just an idea or an answer to the demand. It must be understood as a prerequisite for competitive success now and in the future.
Unfortunately, in the last decade, tourism has focused its attention on the economic aspects regardless of the negative impact that the activity causes to the environment and the cultural background of the communities directly affected by the industry. However, the worsening of worldwide ecological and social crises has had a significant impact on human consciousness, therefore, causing the rapid growth of the naturalistic tourism approach. This has encouraged a change in habits and expectations of tourists around the world.
Every day, the new interest of tourists towards a more active tourism respectful of the environmental and socio-cultural interests, is more obvious. Also tourists prefer high quality services, which focus on the conservation and protection of the environment and local cultures, thereby complementing their vacations.
We are certainly facing a new set of rules of the law of supply and demand, where tourism is understood and analyzed internationally, as an integral activity that cannot be separated from the environmental, social and cultural elements. It is clear that the alteration or destruction of resources (natural, social or cultural) will inevitably lead to the destruction of tourism as an economic activity.
This new trend, has affected not only consumers but also investors, who are carefully selecting tourism projects in which to invest their money, trying to ensure ecological and socially sustainable development interests. Tourism industry is particularly based on demand; therefore these changes are influencing the supply. For these reasons, we can say with certainty that "The tourism of the XXI century either is sustainable tourism or will not be at all!”
The fact that sustainable tourism is a concept with no universally accepted measurement parameters, has allowed a significant number of companies to act irresponsibly. These companies have taken advantage of the rise of sustainable tourism by promoting what we call "Greenwashing" (abuse of the term eco or sustainable). The immediate effect of this bad conduct creates a great distrust of the consumer about the product offered, with serious repercussions for the entire industry.
Costa Rica has emerged as a leader of sustainable tourism and has managed successful projects in this field. To achieve a comprehensive and global solution to the problem of “Greenwashing”, the Costa Rican Board of Tourism has proposed the implementation of the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST).
The main purpose of the CST is precisely to turn the concept of sustainability into a reality, being a practical and necessary element for the country's tourism competitiveness. Therefore, improving the way the natural and social resources are used, and encouraging the communities to participate. It also offers a new element for business competitiveness.