Photo credit via: Dave Krugman
As an organization, we have a strong emphasis on building a better world through travel, which is why we’re proud to partner with Lokal for the release of their film, 2.5% – The Osa Peninsula. Set in the world’s most biologically intense region, the documentary is a beautiful example of the power of tourism to have a positive impact on our world.
This award winning film, shot over 5 years, explores the potential consequences of a planned international airport in the Osa Peninsula rainforest, exposes tourism impacts on previously untouched places in Costa Rica, and highlights a new model of rural community tourism where local families provide travel experiences that shape and protect their communities and natural resources.
The full documentary is now available online via Lokal Travel and Vimeo on Demand. You can watch the film for as little as $1, making it a no-brainer addition to your watch list. We hope you’ll enjoy the film as much as we did, and that it will inspire you to live a life of purpose-filled adventure.
Below is a Q&A with the creators of this documentary and the founders of Lokal, Eytan Elterman and Marco Bollinger.
When people ask you what the documentary is about, how do you respond?
Marco Bollinger – The film is both a character story and a globally relevant social issue documentary about the negative impacts of mass tourism, and emerging synergy between rainforest conservation and community-based tourism in Costa Rica’s rural Osa Peninsula. I think that’s why people have loved it so much.
It’s at once about this loveable and bad-ass single jungle mom, and her surrounding community, all trying to survive however they can, and also about this glorious place that’s home to 2.5 percent of the earth’s biodiversity.
The community’s characters make the global story something anyone can relate to, and though our main character Xinia your able to really connect the forest and what it’s like to live there.
When you have spoken with local residents what are their worries and concerns? How do they generally feel about the issue?
Eytan Elterman – The majority of the residents are concerned about big development in the region. The don’t want chain hotels and they want to protect their way of life, but they also are also very interested in having more work and customers for their businesses. They’re very aware of what’s happened in other regions with regard to mega development and don’t want the Osa to have the same fate.
How does new tourism development potentially damage the biological beauty of the Osa Peninsula?
Eytan Elterman – New tourism development can look like many things. I think we have to differentiate between low impact and slow growth development, and the rapid growth and land speculation of mass tourism.
The problem with fast growth tourism is that it’s driven by money that isn’t motivated to protect anything in that place, their general goal is to get in and out in the fastest way possible, and to make the largest profit.
Marco Bollinger – It’s not that we believe you can’t make a profit, it just shouldn’t come at the expense of what the place will look and feel like in 10 years.
Is their a way to create sustainable development without damaging the Peninsula?
Marco Bollinger – Yes. As Eytan mentioned, the negative impacts come from fast development. Fast development is usually controlled by large foreign companies and investment groups that really have no connection to, or love for the place.
In our five years making this film we’ve learned that the development companies and land speculators are usually in and out in 3-5 years, they mostly want to buy cheap, get the tax concession for building a hotel, but really they’re interested in building a golf course and selling 100 million dollar vacation homes.
Their 3-5 year plan doesn’t actually include any benefits for the locals or the environment because they aren’t going to live there. Actually no one who buys those homes is going to live there in the traditional sense. They won’t have kids in the local schools, they probably won’t even leave the resort grounds much.
In stark contrast to that, if the locals who have been there forever and who have children in the local school are in control of this development, it’s been proven over and over that they are much better stewards of the environment and local culture, the reasons they anyone wanted to travel there in the first place.
What is conscious travel and how can tourist become a better conscious traveller?
Eytan Elterman – Conscious travel is understanding the impact that you have when you travel. There are totally accessible ways to go to a place and leave the destination better off. This can be done by staying at hotels that have sustainable practices, by hiring tour operators that are locally owned and operated, and by traveling with the mindset that you are traveling to other people’s communities and having general respect for them and their culture.
Engaging with locals, being open-minded to your differences, being interested in their culture, treating the place and its people as you would want to be treated if it were your hometown.
Marco Bollinger – It’s good to be aware where your money is going. By spending your money with business where the majority of your dollars will stay in the community you’re visiting, will empower those locals to develop the region the way they want to.
An astounding statistic is that 95% of international travel dollars don’t stay in the local community that was visited. It doesn’t have to be this way, and we travelers have the power to change this.
What has you and your company learned most by doing this documentary?
Eytan Elterman – Not saying no, but finding a compromise. It’s easy to say no to development and opportunities because you’re scared about development. But it’s hard to be open-minded and find that middle ground which can actually provide even more benefits than pure conservation.
I went in with the mindset that development was a bad thing for the peninsula. But I can out of the experience understanding that development is inevitable, but there’s so many different way to approach development. I didn’t know about community tourism before making this film. Now I’ve dedicated my career to making it grow.
What are the key take-aways fellow travelers should be aware of that this films brings to life?
Eytan Elterman – That you can have an amazing vacation and do good at the same time. Sustainable travel will never mean a boring trip.
Marco Bollinger – I think I can speak for the both of us in saying that the reason we travel, and the reason we make documentaries, is to connect with amazing people from around the world that help us learn how to be better humans.
There’s so much ancient wisdom and personal growth to be found in the far corners of the world, and if you don’t get out of your comfort zone, if you don’t find a way to go and connect with those people who are different from you, those who have really struggled but found answers to what’s really important in life, you really cheat yourself out of the magic of what travel can be.
This film is as much about my and Eytan’s discovery through this kind of local, meaningful travel, as it is about the global social issues facing us as humanity.