How a Senderista Helps Increase Rural Tourism for the Sendero Pacifico Trail and Businesses of San Luis, Costa Rica Isabelle Cadrot Monteverde Institute Intern 2016 Lake Forest College Lake Forest, Illinois, 60045
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 2 Abstract In the small mountain town of San Luis, many f amilies and the two dozen or so businesses that reside there would like to see more development of rural tourism and benefit from the economic opportunities that accompany it. One obstacle the community of San Luis faces when trying to attract more tourists, students, and volunteers is the lack of informa tion it ha s readily available I n addition to inspecting and physically working on the Sendero Pacifi co hiking trail I aided San Luis business es by summarizing their operations Â€ history, what services they provide, and pricing in a Prezi presentation, as well as creating an online magazine about seven integrated farms. The magazine ÂThe Story of Las Fincas Integrales of San LuisÂ‚ was the most s ignificant piece of work I accomplished because the stories of these unique farmers nee d ed to be shared in order for visitors to know what activities are available in the town, to better understand the values of the community, and want to visit these sust ainable family businesses. T he physical work in the Sendero Pacifico, the presentation on businesses, and the magazine on integrated farms will all be discussed below in addition to further actions that must be taken to increase rural tourism in San Luis
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 3 Introduction Increasing rural tourism in communities like San Luis can not only be challenging but controversial and requires compromise. The majority of the San Luis community feels attracting more tourists to the area would raise their standard of living as jobs delineate further and further from traditional paths such as dairy farming or growing coffee. Even people w ho still hold these job positions are depending more on giving tou rs of their farms or selling products to tourists in order to supplement their incomes. Though residents and business owners are interested in the economic benefits of increasing tourism in San Luis, they also have a strong desire to maintain the townÂ€s se nse of co mmunity and identity San Luisenias desire a more responsible form of tourism that will have a lower impact on th eir way of life than the mass tourism that has taken over the regions of Monteverde, Cerro Plano, and Santa Elena. A balance must be f ound between b ringing sufficien t tourism to the town and keeping its tight kni t community and secluded ambiance intact. One of the ways to foster responsible tourism the entire community will benefit from is through the Sendero Pacifico. Started in 2004, the vision of this foot trail is to connect country towns all the down from the cloud forest of Monteverde to the Gulf of Nicoya on the Pacific Ocean. Each of these towns offer s more or less the same activities for tourists and by advertising themselves a s part of the expansive trail system of the Sendero Pacifico, unnecessary compe tition between them is eliminated. Every town and its businesses can benefit from hikers passing through by providing lodging, food, activities, and information. The people who find the Sendero Pacifico appealing also differ from t he average tourist These hikers come to the Sendero Pacifico to physically tes t themsel ves, spend time with family on the trails, and reflect
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 4 amidst the stunni ng beauty of the mountains qualities tha t make them more likely to be conscientious and interested in getting to know these rural communities. In order to bring in a consistent flow of visitors to the Sende ro Pacifico, substantial work needs to be completed. To date, trails exist between Monteverde and San Luis, and between San Luis and the towns of Vera C ruz, San Antonio, and Guacimal, but a trail h as not been expanded beyond these point s Because The Sendero Pacifico is constructed and cleaned by volunteer groups and community members on ly several times a year, many sections need water bars to diverge water from the trail, dual stairs and soil containers, and debris cleared from the paths for the Sendero Pacifico to be pleasant enough to attract visitors and withstand th e wear and tear ca used by hikers. In addition to ameliorating the Sendero Pacifico, better advertising of businesses and activities in San Luis is key to increasing rural tourism. Currently, there are few resources for visitors in regards to what activities t hey can take part in For instance, the Community Center of San Luis wants to provide visitors with information, but has nothing prepared for them other than a list of businesses with brief descriptions and contacts. Without appealing marketing of dining options, tours lodging, and farms, businesses cannot properly attract the customers they need. In order to ult imately charm possible visitors, San Luis must make the stories of its business owners, families, and community known. Revealing the personalities that make up the town not only giv es it character, but makes visitor s fall in love with the people. When guests can personally relate to the residents of San Luis, they a re sure to want to support their business endeavors and visit again in the future.
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 5 Methods On The Sendero Pacifico In regards to work on the Sendero Pacifico, my supervisor Nat Scrimshaw and I ventured into the mountain trails approximately two times per work week. Before commencing any physical trail construction or main tenance, I became acqu ainted with the e ntire trail system of San Luis during surveying hikes. On these outings Nat and I would take note of which paths were not clearly visible to hikers, which sections had been torn up by cows and needed water bars and leveling, and where stai rs and soil containers needed to be placed. As we traveled, Nat chopped down trees that had fallen into the path, overgrown bushes, vines, and grass and I would discard them into the brush. Because of limited available time and the difficulty we experienc ed in getting a volunteer work group together, we continued to survey the trails for many weeks. In this time span, however, we were able to decrease the danger of hikers stepping on branches and vines that jutted out into the path, and compose a complete list of tasks to accomplish. Later, we were able to work with a group of eight volunteers from San Luis, Santa Elena, and Guacimal. We carried heavy pick mattocks, hammers, sledges, shovels, chain saws and weed whackers into the forest and split into pai rs to complete the necessary tasks. A young man named Frank and I tackled the task of making stairs that also act as soil containers on the most torn up section of the trail. Previously, heavy cows had been tramping the path, turning it into a compacted gu lly that funneled water downhi ll and carried soil away To const ruct the stairs, we first level ed the soil in small sections and carve d a hole in which a thick tree branch would be placed to act as a step. One of the boys would shape thin branches into sharp stakes for us, which I would then hold in place next to the larger log with my pick mattock, while Frank hammered it
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 6 into the ground Two of these stakes were placed on each side of the log to ensure it would not move about. We constructed around eig ht steps in total, and it was incredibly satisfying to transform a trail that was difficult and unpleasant to walk on into a set of easy s tairs. Afterwards, we helped the other volunteers make water bars and cleaned The House of Patrick, a rustic lodge where hikers can stay the night. One of the greatest accomplishments of my two months in the Sendero was walking with Nat and a friend of m ine on the section of the trail between San Luis and the zone of Vera Cruz to test a possible lodging location for future tourists During our stay in the simple house, we met with community members from Vera Cruz, San Antonio, and Guacimal to help them ge t organized for the arrival of a volunteer group in December 2016 Since the community members are quite removed from the world of tourism and do not know the protocol of receiving guests, we helped them brainstorm n eeded materials, how to physically expan d the space to accommodate large groups, and how their committee could share the profits of hosting visitor s. This was the first time anyone had taken an official trip down to these communities to test the trail and accommodations, and it got the people of those rural communities excited about being part of the trail. Aggregating Information on Businesses The second step of expanding rural tourism in San Luis was to concentrate information on businesses in one location that is easily accessible to tourist s. I used the Community CenterÂ€s short descriptions of active businesses to learn about who the owners are, what services they offer, and prices. Using the Prezi presentation software, I fabricated slides for each of the 18 businesses with photos and descriptions in both English and Spanish, so that the information would be accessible to a more diverse group of visitors. This presentation, named ÂLas Empresas
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 7 de San LuisÂ‚ The Businesses of San Luis, can be embedded in th e future website of San Luis or the Community Center, a nd can be shared by email and social media. Sharing the Story of Integrated Farms I was first introduced to integrated farms when, being a tou rist myself, I toured a couple of farms in Monteverde and San Luis I found these small family farms that emphasized sustainability, education, and bettering the community very admirable and felt their stories would be as enthralling to visitors as they were to me. Additionally, I sensed writing down these stor ies and presenting them in an appealing fashion to the public would facilitate the sharing of this information and bring in more business for the families. Seven farms stood out to me in San Luis as truly integral and I commenced scheduling interview s with the farmers. All of the farmers agreed to meet with me and the majority showed great interest in sharing their sto ries and increasing their customer base During each interview, the farmers recounted the history of their families, when and how they be gan farming, what challe nges they faced and what th e farm means to them. Afterward I would follow up with more specific questions about certificates they might have, unique sustainable practices, and an anecdote or special memory of the farm that I could directly quote them on. The interviews last ed anywhere from 50 minutes to four and a half hours, depending on how much time the farmer had available and how much they were willing to share with me. After every interview, I was given a tour of the farms c offee and sugar cane proces sing machines and coffee shops, which I documented with photographs. I used the program Joomag to create the online magazine When ÂThe Story of Las Fincas Integrales of San LuisÂ‚ was finished it could be share d through email and social media
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 8 has its own link and can be embedded in a webpage. I f desired, the magazi ne can also be published At the end o f the 25 page piece I provided the contact information of the businesses. Discussion When considering ÂThe Businesses of San LuisÂ‚ presentation aggregating information on local businesses was not difficult to do, but someone needed to finally take the time to complete the task. My hope is that the Community Center will be able to purchase a televisi on in the f uture on which they can play the presentation This would be a helpful and entertaining way for tourists to get information on local attractions when they arrive at the Community Center On both occasions when I presented the business Prezi and the integ rated farms magazine to the San Luis community, I received very rewarding compliments and observations from community members. Virgilio, a prominent community figure told me that though many people come to San Luis and the Monteverde region to do great sc ientific work, few er come to work with the people. He said that though scientific work is im portant, the results arenÂ€t always shared with the community and the residents do not rea lly benefit. I did not know my internship was one of the first of its kind, and that improving the marketi ng for businesses and making the effort to develop a relationship with families meant so much to community members Eugenio Vargas, another active community member, said he finds it inspiration al that so many young students l ike me come to the community to do internships and community service, that San Luis has grown a lot from hosting students like myself, and that my work is truly appreciated. Overall, people were very impressed with the quality of my magazine and the fact t hat this was the first time I had ever tried to produce one. I am thankful that my internship was a balance of physical and academic work. Walking for up to six hours in the Sendero Pacifico not only strengthened my muscles and tested my
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 9 willpower, but created many opportunities for my supervisor and I to converse about the community. Other than when I was interviewing the owners of the integrated farms, I learned the most about the people of San LuisÂ€s values, past s desires, conflicts, and strong suits wh en Nat and I were alone in the mountains. Being surrounded by nature and standing up on the mountain peaks, sweating and red in the face, I would look down at the valley of San Luis peppered with the red roofed houses and the white backs of slow moving cows, and understand what the residents want to protect. ItÂ€s the feeling of being safe as you walk down the rocky road, because every five minutes a friend, or uncle, or niece will pass you on his or her car and wave or offer a ride. ItÂ€s the feeling of s werving down the trocha on your host mothersÂ€ ATV, in awe that the wispy clouds that cover the mountains peaks out to the Pacific are below you Âƒ and you believe you are literally on top of the world. San Luis is stopping by a friendÂ€s house uninvited, bec ause you know you are always welcome for a cup of coffee and good conversatio n. ItÂ€s hearing the whistling birds go undisturbed in the chilly air of early morning, and walking into your fro nt yard at night to find a complex tapestry of shimmering stars tha t the street lights of Santa Elena cannot dim down. I believe I have contributed helpful labor and essential resources to the community of San Luis that will enable them to attract mindful tourists who want to learn more about and be a part of this great town. It is also my belief that the expansion and advertising of the Se ndero Pacifico will increase rural tourism in San Luis and create more economic opportunities for its residents without causing an undesirable swell of irresponsible tourists. It is es sential that the people of San Luis and those that aid them in attracting more visitors make their stories personal and make human connections with newcomers These actions will foster the same love for the town that the San Luisenias have, and the same on e I have developed during my time here.
Isabelle Cadrot, MVI Final Report, pg. 10 Resources Mata Leiton E 2016, June 30 Personal interview. Ramirez, V 2016, June 26 Personal interview. Leiton G. 2016, June 18 Personal interview. Leiton Vargas, E 2016, July 6 Personal interview. Leiton, Z 2016, June 18 Personal interview. Lobo, G. 2016, June 9. Personal interview. Salazar Picado, O 2016, June 23 Personal interview. Sirota, N 2016, June 6 Personal interview.