By Roberto Fernández, Pacuare Lodge owner
Monterey Bay in California has long been at the forefront of sustainability. This past February, visionaries, public officials, policy makers, tourism professionals, and hospitality developers gathered for the first-ever Sustainable Hospitality Development Symposium in the hopes of propelling this beautiful seaside county to another level of sustainability. However, before we had a chance to strut our stuff in front of a distinguished panel of guests, a funny thing happened on the way to the symposium.
Making an Impact from Costa Rica
When you do something from the heart, like our vision for Pacuare Lodge, you always hope that it will have an impact on the world. We were very humbled to be chosen as the first example of successful sustainable tourism and featured at the Sustainable Hospitality Development Symposium. Not only is it a huge personal honor to get this kind of recognition for our work, but also a great opportunity to make new partnerships with renowned leaders from California and Costa Rica. Did we mention the former president of Costa Rica, José María Figueres, would also be in attendance? You don’t get a better audience than that!
However, what made the biggest impact wasn’t the former president or hospitality developers looking to learn from the success of our sustainable eco-lodge in Costa Rica What marked us the most on this trip actually happened before we ever made it to the symposium.
A Personal Experience in an Impersonal Setting
As we were traveling to California, we had our usual layover in Houston. Immigration is usually an impersonal experience, not the place for inspiration or for creating lasting memories – at least, not pleasant ones. However, this immigration experience proved to be quite different.
When it came our turn to talk to the immigration officer, the experience started out in the typical fashion. “How long are you staying? What’s the purpose of your trip? Do you have anything to declare?” You know, the usual. Often in these situations, you feel like the officer is going through the motions, looking straight through you, and not really taking in the experience – and can you blame them? They’ve asked these questions of a million people already; why should we be any different? However, when we told the officer about the Sustainable Hospitality Development Symposium, his ears perked up, and he asked about our work. To our surprise, as we described our little sustainable lodge in the jungle of Costa Rica, a look of familiarity crossed his face.
“I know you!” the immigration officer proclaimed. “You have to river raft to get to your lodge, right?”
We were stunned.
The officer went on to explain that we had passed through immigration at his booth once before, and we had talked about Pacuare Lodge and what makes it so special. Those few minutes passing through immigration had made such an impact on the immigration officer that he still remembered us and our lodge to this day. He hadn’t even visited Pacuare, but had simply been forever impacted and inspired by our passion for our work.
We passed through immigration with a handshake from the officer, who promised that he would make it to Pacuare Lodge one day!
Sustainable Hospitality Pays Off
At Pacuare Lodge, our mission has always been to put sustainability first. We believed that our dedication to the environment would drive our business, and we were right! Never wavering from our mission, the Pacuare Lodge has been named one of the most unique lodges in the world by National Geographic. Today, eco-tourism is a huge trend, but it wasn’t always, and we are proud to be successful pioneers and passing on our knowledge to fellow developers in the hospitality industry.
Pacuare Lodge is Eco-Tourism at Its Finest
We are extremely proud to have presented Pacuare Lodge at the symposium. We are proud that our experience, as well as the measures we take to put sustainability first, will be the example from which Monterey County is going to model their hospitality industry in the future. It’s always nice to be recognized by your industry and fellow environmentalists, but making an impact on a random stranger while passing through immigration in Houston, Texas, is something that will stay with us forever!
It is moments like that which give us proof that we are on the right path, and that sustainable hospitality is something that will have a lasting impact, not just on the planet, but on the people.