Costa Rica, like most tourist-based economies, took a hit during the pandemic as travel came to a standstill. But it aims to bounce back with the launch of its first sustainable tourism bonds.
Costa Rica wants you to invest in Costa Rica. The eco-tourist “Pura Vida” hotspot’s first-ever lifestyle tourism bonds bring a spotlight to the country’s robust sustainability initiatives and aim to boost its economy.
Prior to the pandemic, Costa Rica saw more than a million U.S. visitors every year—about one-third of its tourists in 2019.
Unlike other popular travel destinations, Costa Rica thrives on small family-owned and operated businesses, from hotels and restaurants to tour providers. Unemployment levels during lockdown skyrocketed to nearly 100 percent in beach towns and tourist communities, leading to casualties across the hospitality industry, with many restaurants and hotels closing permanently.
The bonds could help change that, though.
The new bonds are the brainchild of Richard Bexon, co-owner of Namu Travel. His idea was to offer vacation stays and access to permanent residency across the country’s finest luxury resorts as well as developments in the works.
The bonds aren’t timeshares; these are fixed-term investments, most with an internal rate of return of 10 percent or higher—with vacation nights added in to the return.
“Even before the pandemic, it was a slow and difficult process for Costa Rica tourism businesses and entrepreneurs to raise the capital they needed to either set themselves or expand,” Bexon said in a statement.
According to Blackrock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink, investing in sustainable assets saw a 96 percent increase in 2020, climbing to more than $288 billion globally.
“I believe that this is the beginning of a long but rapidly accelerating transition – one that will unfold over many years and reshape asset prices of every type,” Fink said.
“During the height of the lockdowns last year, I saw so many great businesses here losing everything they have, all the while trying to keep their staff from the breadline and in work. Nobody was giving them a break and something needed to be done,” Bexon said.
“We figured that if we could create some kind of fund for tourism businesses to not only see them and their staff through hard times, but also expand and improve during good times, we could perhaps ensure that what we saw in 2020 would never happen again.”
The bonds aren’t just aimed at boosting business, but also at promoting the country’s environmental commitments. Costa Rica boasts a 98 percent renewable energy rate, more than 25 percent of the country is now protected as parks or reserves, and its forest cover is up to 53 percent after decades of deforestation crippled the country’s lush rainforests.
For Bexon, the bonds offer Costa Rica a unique opportunity in post-Covid times.
“One thing the pandemic has taught us is the importance of a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, not only financially, but across all aspects of life. There’s no better place than Costa Rica for developing the lifestyle you need for yourself and your loved ones,” Bexon said.
“Sustainable investing provides a new, more comprehensive standard for investing that can potentially provide better outcomes for investors over the long-term.”