Cabins stand in the forest as part of an eco-lodge (Costa Rica)

Costa Rica Eco-tourism benefits the environment and tour operators

North & Central America
Environment & Climate

The impacts of climate change are posing a growing threat to Costa Rica’s natural diversity and are thus putting popular tourist destinations and the existence of a large number of small enterprises at risk. The Government’s aim is to restructure the tourism sector in a sustainable and climate-neutral manner. As part of the develoPPP programme funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German tour operator travel-to-nature GmbH is implementing a sustainable tourism project in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It promotes environmental education, contributes to rainforest reforestation and supports the region’s population through eco-tourism. The company is able to expand its pioneering role in the environmental travel sector and respond more effectively to growing demand for more sustainable travel.

Costa Rica is a hotspot of biodiversity and is home to around 3.6 per cent of the world’s known species. Extreme weather events are jeopardising the local ecosystems, however, while poaching and deforestation have also left their mark. Yet the country’s natural heritage attracts a large number of tourists and creates jobs. Tourism is a key industry in Costa Rica and the challenge is to shape the sector such that it helps protect and preserve biodiversity while improving the population’s economic prospects. For tour operators specialising in environmental travel, an intact environment is essential for them to be able to meet the requirements of their own target groups and enhance the quality of their tourism products. Tourists are interested in the country and its people and are also keen to see that local residents can live off the income they earn from tourism. In cooperation with Costa Rican partners, the German tour operator travel-to-nature has thus been operating an eco-lodge in the La Tigra region since 2015. The project, which also covers the reforestation of indigenous tree species, encourages residents and tourists to get involved in conserving biodiversity in an interactive and participatory way. Training is provided for local start-ups, and a sustainable value chain is being developed to create jobs and make the region even more attractive for tourists.

Between 2017 and 2021, as part of the develoPPP programme, the project partners drew on an overall budget of around EUR 360,000 to implement the following measures with a view to establishing sustainable eco-tourism and promoting biodiversity in the pilot region La Tigra:

  • Reforesting a further 32 hectares of rainforest – equivalent to an area the size of around 45 football pitches – with indigenous and endangered tree species.
  • Training the local population on environmental education, entrepreneurship and employment opportunities in sustainable companies.
  • Developing a curriculum to train and certify local residents as tour guides.

As part of the project, travel-to-nature contributed its know-how on environmentally responsible tourism. GIZ experts advised the project in Costa Rica itself.

Tourism and nature conservation are not mutually exclusive – they complement one another. For us as an eco-travel company, an intact environment is of vital importance. GIZ in Costa Rica greatly helped us to implement our sustainable tourism project successfully with training and reforestation measures.
Rainer Stoll, CEO of travel-to-nature
Man in the forest holding a fruit (Costa Rica)
Project manager Adolfo Quesada is a conservationist with heart and soul. Photo: travel-to-nature GmbH
Woman plants a tree in the forest (Costa Rica)
Newly planted trees are tracked, cared for for three years and then left to nature. Photo: travel-to-nature GmbH

The project activities enabled a sustainable eco-tourism model to be developed that contributes to economic development and to protecting and preserving flora and fauna. The model can also be transferred to other regions and countries. Environmental monitoring documents whether new animal species have made their home in the project location.

  • 5,553 trees were planted between 2017 and 2022
  • A total area of 46 hectares was reforested by 2021
  • 3.5% of the plant species in Costa Rica can be found at the project location
  • 30 companies in the vicinity of the eco-lodge offer sustainable products and services
  • 12 residents completed around 60 per cent of their training as tour guides between 2017 and 2021
  • An environmental education centre has been set up


Stacked coins

Higher income and economic prospects


Protecting and preserving biodiversity through reforestation and eco-tourism

Quality seal with a leaf

Improved environmental and social standards in tourism


Globe with pin

Consolidating the pioneering role in sustainable, socially responsible travel in Costa Rica

Woman working at a loom

develoPPP Classic

develoPPP Classic is aimed at medium-sized and large companies that want to invest sustainably in a developing or emerging country and expand their operational activities locally. Suitable projects receive technical and financial support of up to two million euros in public funding.

travel to nature logo

travel-to-nature GmbH

travel-to-nature is a tour operator from Heitersheim im Breisgau, Germany. The company’s concept is built around nature and species conservation. Founded in 1997 by Rainer Stoll, the company is one of the leading eco-tourism operators offering destinations in Costa Rica, Latin America and other selected locations across the globe.

GIZ logo

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

GIZ is a federal enterprise operating in international cooperation for sustainable development and education work for over 50 years. GIZ supports economic development and employment and works with companies to develop strategies for sustainable business development.

Rainer Stoll
Rainer Stoll CEO travel-to-nature GmbH
Raphaela Zieger
Raphaela Zieger Project Manager develoPPP Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH