*A wonderful experience that you can live up close
We sat down to speak with Doña Marieloz Bonilla, a Costa Rican who went beyond being a tourist guide with a traditional approach on tourism to managing to position in our country the interesting model of “Rural Community Tourism”.
This woman has been a great entrepreneur when it comes to her studies and diverse activities related to her vocation. Marieloz is native of the province of Cartago and her family comes from a rural family. She made her first steps towards the end of the 80s as a volunteer and collaborator of the recognized Education for Development Program "Juventud Canadá Mundo" (Canada World Youth) in rural communities in Costa Rica and Canada. And it was at that moment when she started her formation in sustainability, as she told us.
Doña Marieloz was able to make a totally different turn to the traditional commercial tourism she had studied, by means of an alternative option of "non formal education" directed to a traveler interested in formation outside the classroom with real live experiences of the Costa Rican culture, including topics such as conservation and inclusion of vulnerable groups, leading to a concept of sustainable development.
After several years of knowledge, formation and experience obtained through projects developed with NGOs and being part of a pioneer group developing "Rural Community Tourism" in Costa Rica, Mrs. Marieloz tolds us also about her interesting and current program called "Acción Verde" (Green Action) (Action Learning Project Costa Rica), starring high school and university students with already acquired experiences in Alberta, Montreal, Ontario, New York and Vermont.
This program has specialized in providing tourists with educational thematic journeys, addressed to "responsible tourists" and to those that wish to impact a local community in a positive way. The same program offers the service of "incentives travels" for stress management or motivation to families and companies. It has also started offering recently "business coaching". Green Action is directed also to groups of retired persons, kids with disabilities, LGBTI persons and inclusive groups.
We were having already our second cup of coffee after a long and interesting conversation and it was clear that the principal attribute Doña Marieloz offers to the Canadian visitors is the "close encounter with the Costa Rican culture", from learning how to dance typical dances to a real-life experience learning how to cook a truly Costa Rican receipt. For more information: http://www.greenactioncr.com/
* Doña Marieloz is the founder of the educational travel and volunteerism program called "Acción Verde" and her field of action has expanded to Central America. She is a consultant, an international lecturer in Sustainable Tourism, and a Certified Touristic Guide with knowledge in English, French and Portuguese. Marieloz has studies in Administration of Touristic Businesses and a Masters degree in Leisure, Tourism and Environment in Holland. She received the Professional Merit Award in 2014 and is the former president of the Rural Community Tourism National Chamber. At this moment, she is part of the Executive Board of ACOPROT, the Costa Rican Association of Tourism Professional.
Photos by: Acción Verde