Developing a New Model for Resort and Tourism Development

15 August 2011

Assistant Editor's Note: The following article, written by Donnie Clapp, was published on ATTA Member Mercury CSC's website and published here with their permission.

In 1976, visionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term "meme" in his first book, The Selfish Gene. It was his word for the informational equivalent of the gene: a self-replicating, evolving idea. The sort that occasionally hooks into a moment in societal consciousness and establishes itself in people's minds. Whether silly or profound, these memes represent a new way of thinking about some small part of our world, and we can't help but be affected by them.

For a long time, developers have built destination resorts a certain way, which can be generalized as without much regard to the places in which they exist. In the recent past, a second option has presented itself in eco-tourism, but its focus and audience are both narrow.

We believe that there is a third way, and we are excited to begin work in Costa Rica with Pellas Development Group to figure out exactly what that looks like. Through market research, branding, and creative, we are helping them find a path to a new kind of resort development: one that combines existing communities, the authentic place, and sustainable ideals to create a positive experience and a lasting legacy for everyone involved.

The place where this project will take shape is remote and strikingly beautiful, but it is far from untouched — it is one town of 3,500 flanked by small fishing villages, ranch land and protected coves lined with beautiful beaches. The vision is to build up the place and the people in it, both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of knowledge and expertise, before the first brick is ever laid. In other words, we'll be developing tourism to the region first, and then building a resort (thoughtfully) to meet that demand.

No one, including us, knows for sure how this will turn out, but that comes with forging new territory. And if this new idea turns out to be a successful one, we think it might be just the kind of evolving, self-replicating idea that Richard Dawkins was talking about — something that may be powerful enough to change how the development industry looks at the world.

For that, and because we get to go to Costa Rica a lot, we are very excited.