Building a Hotel on Cocos Island?

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    The possibility of building a hotel on Cocos Island –for a super-exclusive tourism of diving, bird watching, as well as enjoying the natural environment– is an idea that generates controversy among environmentalists, former representatives, and environmental consultants. And it is that in order to preserve the ecological paradise that the island represents today, it is necessary that all the investments for the National Park are oriented to the protection of its enormous biodiversity, according to Alejandra Villalobos, executive director of the “Fundación Amigos Isla del Coco” (Faico).

    However, it is also true that the island is considered one of the 10 best diving spots in the world, according to the international magazine ‘Travel + Leisure’. In addition, the country does not have the economic resources necessary to truly protect the natural wealth adjacent to the Park.

    The idea was recently put forward by former deputy Otto Guevara, who claimed that controlled and exclusive tourism would help generate economic resources and at the same time protect the natural environment. “The construction and operation of one or several hotels on Cocos Island should be trusted. This could somewhat reduce the costs to get to know this paradise and also access resources to improve the surveillance of the maritime boundaries of the National Park”, said Guevara.

    Conserving the ecosystems and biodiversity of the National Park

    Although they ensure full respect for national legislation on decision-making regarding concessions or constructions, from Faico, they point out that the laws of the country have always been committed to the protection of natural resources. “As protectors of the Island, we call to maintain and promote investments aimed at conserving the ecosystems and biodiversity of the National Park because they are essential to guarantee that the ecosystem services of these marine areas and that their economic contribution lasts over time”, Villalobos said.

    They argued that the sustainable management of the National Park has generated contributions and linkages to the country’s economy. Due to multiple reasons, building hotels within Cocos Island is unfeasible, according to Gina Cuza, director of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area. In addition, it would go against the objectives of the creation of the National Park and endanger its natural resources, explained the legal advice of this Protected Area.

    Protection has a cost

    On the other hand, defining the type of hotel is essential to determine if these constructions could be carried out on the island and to analyze a possible economic benefit for the facilities, according to Allan Astorga, an environmental consultant. “Now, this protection has a cost and hence achieving a more exclusive tourist project with high investment and high cost, with few tourists could be viable, provided that the load capacity is considered very well and that the hotel implies an economic income to the Park, and thus be able to invest in technology to safeguard and protect biological resources”, said Astorga.

    Non-mass and low-impact tourism could work on the island, and it could also be considered that through a lottery or a similar mechanism, Costa Ricans can visit these facilities, added the environmental consultant. In this sense, the national park received more than 12,000 visits during 2021, of which 9,000 correspond to non-residents and 3,000 to residents, according to data from the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT).

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