Climate change in Costa Rica: how are businesses in the tourism sector reacting?

Climate change impacts increasingly threaten Costa Rica’s beloved tourist destinations and the existence of its countless small businesses. adelphi and GIZ conducted a fact-finding mission in particularly vulnerable regions and demonstrated notable deficiencies in the awareness of climate risks.


Costa Rica’s tourism industry is especially affected by the effects of climate change. This vulnerability is not only the result of the particular geographical location of these destinations, but also of the economic structure of the tourism sector. The sector is influenced in particular by the many micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that are of utmost importance for the gross national product and the country’s job market.

How aware are Costa Rica’s MSMEs of their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change? What approaches to climate change adaptation already exist and how can businesses be practically assisted in implementing relevant adaptation measures? These issues were central to a two-week fact-finding mission which adelphi conducted in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Costa Rica in August and September 2015.

Businesses reveal deficiencies in the awareness of climate risks

The mission took participants into the Southern Caribbean and the cloud forest region of Monteverde, which are both considerably impacted by the effects of climate change. Central to the mission was a half-day workshop which included representatives from public and private institutions from the tourism sector. The participants discussed possible climate risks for the tourism industry as well as approaches to climate change adaptation. In addition, interviews and on-site visits were conducted in both regions.

The results of the survey demonstrate: MSMEs in Costa Rica are so far only minimally informed about the dangers of climate change. Many enterprises find it difficult to identify the immediate risks to their operations. Moreover, they often lack the necessary know-how and resources to effectively guard their businesses against climate change impacts.

These findings need to now be followed by concrete measures. As a preliminary step, relevant actors in both regions will be sensitised to the effects of climate change by means of workshops. Building on this, subsequent pilot measures will be implemented in order to assist Costa Rica’s tourism sector in adapting to climate change.

This fact-finding mission is part of the global program “Developing and pilot testing of advisory approaches to strengthen the climate change adaptation capacity of the private sector in Bangladesh, Central America, Morocco and Rwanda", which the GIZ is conducting in cooperation with adelphi.