Sustainability in hospitality: a glimpse into the future with Costa Rica’s Marina Bahia Golfito

by: Felicity Cousins | April 15, 2024

Fred Bean, founder & CEO of HotelPORT recently visited Costa Rica’s Marina Bahia Golfito. Here he explains how the visit served as a powerful testament to the potential of sustainable tourism and how the hospitality industry can embrace environmental stewardship, supporting ocean research, conservation and economic development, while still offering outstanding personalised service.

I visited Costa Rica as a guest of the Enjoy Group and the International SeaKeepers Society. The Enjoy Group is renowned for its commitment to creating luxury experiences that respect, protect, and enhance the local environment, and SeaKeepers is an organisation founded 25 years ago by visionary yachtsmen Paul Allen and friends. Their mission is the intersection of the yachting lifestyle, while supporting ocean research, conservation and restoration of the world’s oceans.

Together, they are committed to playing pivotal roles in advancing sustainability within the region and have signed an MOU to support this vision.

Marina Bahia Golfito is a veritable green oasis surrounded by the blue waters of Golfo Dulce. This trip, enriched by sustainability excursions provided by Origen Escapes, offered an immersive look at how the hospitality industry can embrace environmental stewardship, economic development and outstanding personalised service.

The Power of Nature: a sustainable energy model

Marina Bahia Golfito exemplifies an innovative approach to sustainability, being powered 99 per cent by hydroelectric power. The resort showcases how luxury and environmental stewardship can coexist, highlighting the potential for reducing the industry’s carbon footprint through renewable energy sources. Additionally, the resort encourages guests to participate in these sustainability efforts directly.

A simple yet impactful initiative allows guests to contribute by reducing the number of towels laundered each day, conserving water and energy and fostering a culture of responsibility among guests. Reef-friendly sunscreen is locally made and included in your welcome kit.

Regenerative Science and Preservation: beyond sustainability

Marina Bahia Golfito is dedicated not only to sustainable practices but also to regenerative science and preservation efforts. The resort’s initiatives, from catch-and-release sport fishing excursions to eco-trekking in the rainforest on the Oso Peninsula, underscore a commitment to protecting the natural environment.

These experiences contribute financially to conservation efforts and the local economy, illustrating how tourism can tangibly support our Blue Planet’s regeneration. The waters surrounding Marina Bahia Golfito are teaming with life because of the government’s designation of the area as a National Park. For the first time in decades migrating Humpback Whales are returning to the bay, and a recently documented nursery for Hammerhead Sharks has been discovered.

I enjoyed an insightful presentation by renowned Costa Rican marine researcher, Jorge Cortes-Nunez, who participated in an expedition with the Schmidt Ocean Institute in Golfito. He also discussed Cocos Island and the joint research conducted with SeaKeepers’ scientific advisor, Dr. Sylvia Earle.

Personalised Hospitality: the human touch in sustainable tourism

The exceptional personalised hospitality at Marina Bahia Golfito highlights the importance of creating deep, meaningful connections with guests. This approach enriches the guest experience and cultivates a greater appreciation for the area’s conservation efforts and natural beauty, encouraging guests to become passionate advocates for the environment.

Enjoy Group’s CEO, Javier Pacheco says he looks for certain qualities in his potential hires. A positive demeanour, a glimmer in the eye, and willingness to exceed guests’ expectations was evident throughout the many staff members who helped us during our stay. The warmth of the staff was authentic.

A Model for the Industry: Combining Sustainability, Economic Development, and Destination Marketing

With the hospitality sector contributing to one per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, it’s a critical time for action. Stakeholders must familiarise themselves with ESG principles, as sustainability becomes non-negotiable for travellers and corporate travel managers alike.

A recent survey highlighted that 80 per cent of travellers consider sustainability important, suggesting that eco-friendly business models are the future.

By integrating sustainable practices, hotels and resorts not only contribute to the preservation of natural resources but also enhance the guest experience, offering unique opportunities to connect with local cultures and environments in a responsible manner.

According to a Cornell University study, sustainable initiatives can result in a nearly four per cent increase in RevPAR. However, achieving this requires guest participation. It’s essential to inform guests about sustainability initiatives and ways they can contribute, as engagement and change management are key to success.

Fred Bean HotelPORT Costa Rica sustainable tourism

Authentic Sustainability Initiatives

The push for sustainability must be grounded in genuine concern for the planet, beyond branding and following eco-trends. Guests are astute and will recognise greenwashing and authentic efforts have more significant and lasting impacts.

Marina Bahia Golfito serves as a model of how sustainability can be a catalyst for economic development and destination marketing. The upcoming development of Autograph Collection Residences is a prime example, poised to add more than 300 jobs, drawing from the local population and significantly boosting employment opportunities for Golfito locals.

This initiative, coupled with investments in hospitality, tourism education, and marine research, is set to enhance the quality of life for the local community by creating invested stewards charged with protecting the environment.

By prioritising environmentally friendly practices, the resort appeals to eco-conscious travellers, stimulating local economic growth and promoting conservation. This integration of sustainability, economic development, and marketing demonstrates the hospitality industry’s potential to contribute positively to both the environment and the economy.

A Blueprint for the Future

As the hospitality and tourism sector faces increasing pressure to adopt more sustainable practices, Marina Bahia Golfito, supported by the initiatives of the Enjoy Group and SeaKeepers, offers a compelling blueprint for the future.

It demonstrates that integrating sustainability with luxury and personalised service can lead to a thriving, eco-conscious tourism industry. A circular economy where everyone benefits. This journey has reshaped my understanding of sustainable tourism’s possibilities and reinforced the belief that we can all play a role in crafting a more sustainable, regenerative future for our planet.

As Dr. Sylvia Earle says: “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No BLUE No GREEN.”

This article is a sponsored contribution by Fred Bean, founder and CEO of HotelPORT.

We spoke to Fred Bean last year about hotel strategy and sustainability – see more below.

Q&A: Fred Bean, founder and CEO, HotelPORT


Images supplied