Directly impacted families:
The Zapotal Community Homestay connects a small village in Costa Rica with travelers. By opening their doors to visitors, the community has been able to thrive. Traditionally dependent on agricultural work, this village of 60 people has been able to improve their local economy by welcoming guests. Along with homestays and a restaurant for travelers, they offer cooking classes and tours in the surrounding cloud forest. The entire community gains from tourism, with over half of the population involved directly in the industry and the benefits distributed equally.
Travelers are also rewarded with an intimate look at village life. They cook with locals, learn about medicinal plants and farming practices, and visit sites like a sugar cane mill. There’s just a lot of fun, too: cultural differences dissolve during karaoke nights!
Involvement of V Social
Since 2016, VSocial has coordinated with tour operators to promote visits to Zapotal. Working with the local community, facilities have been improved to expand the number of visitors that can be hosted and the tourist activities offered. Something as small as encouraging a longer stay at a local home can have an economic benefit on the entire community. Workshops in foreign languages such as French, English, and German, as well as courses in finance and natural history, ensure new opportunities will open and that the village will be able to grow to meet them.
Directly impacted families:
Zapotal de Miramar
Country: Costa Rica
Zapotal is an isolated region of Costa Rica. Welcoming travelers opens the village to the world and brings it to life. The community loves sharing their culture and learning about the people who come to visit. Increased tourism has had a ripple effect, with villagers improving their homes and local infrastructure to facilitate guests. New opportunities mean that young people can stay close to their families instead of migrating to cities for work. As the people of Zapotal witness more successes from their endeavors, they have greater confidence to take on new projects and challenges.
In the mountains of Costa Rica, there is a small village with fewer than 60 people. Immersed in the cloud forest, Zapotal is a true example of traditional village life, with multiple generations of a family living together in humble homes. Traditionally, the people here depended on livestock and agriculture. More recently, they have focused on tourism. Now, there are restaurants with traditional food, and even a pizza place! Homestays welcome travelers who can also visit the sugar mill, an old cheese factory, and a nursery to learn about the plants and trees. In the last decade, tourism has grown so much that almost everyone in this tiny village is connected to the industry in some way.
Zapotal is also home to Betshy, entrepreneur and grandmother to the only child in the village. Betshy’s real name is Betty. Over the years, hosting more than a hundred volunteers and making new friends around the world, the name “Betshy” somehow stuck. In 2009, she opened the first guesthouse and invited her community to work with her. Right away, Betshy became an “incubator” for the tourism industry in Zapotal, and almost everyone involved in tourism has passed through her doors at some point. Betshy was selected by Costa Rica’s National Bank to become the face of its marketing campaign, granting loans to emerging entrepreneurs, especially women in business. She was featured on bus stop banners around Puntarenas as a representative of female empowerment and welfare. Recently, she remodeled her house to add a spacious kitchen for travelers to take cooking classes. Unfortunately, financial problems have meant that, ironically, Betshy is now having trouble paying back one of the loans she was an advocate for. Zapotal used to receive at least six travel groups a year, but due to the pandemic now has had fewer than a dozen visitors. Betshy is eager to show off her brand-new kitchen, but she hasn’t had the chance. The momentum the village gained from tourism has come to a lull and they are feeling the economic consequences. Everyone in Zapotal is ready to welcome visitors back to share their energy and love of their village. Even though it’s quieter, Betshy remains a valuable pillar of this community.
Fortunately, Betshy has many projects on the go, including an educational farm where she devotes almost all of her extra time. There, she looks after her cows and pigs, talks to her plants and flowers, and fishes for tilapia at her lagoon. Like everyone in Zapotal, she has so much to share, and is waiting for visitors to return so she can invite them inside to cook with her in her beautiful kitchen.