Costa Rica is an intriguing case for anyone interested in sustainability leadership as well as smart country branding. But how do they succeed with linking those two topics together, which vision do they follow?
We caught up with Adriana Acosta Rivas, since 2022 the Director of Country Brand at The Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER)
Our interview with Adriana is a part of our Costa Rica Showcase, which we invite you to check out for additional details on the country and its brand strength.
Adriana, do you remember when you first heard about the Costa Rica country brand?
As Costa Ricans, we identify with the importance of our international positioning since we are very young. And our economy is strongly related to tourism and the export of products and services. We are proud of our small country that internationally has been recognized in different areas. So, when I first heard about Essential Costa Rica, it was like a natural feeling to love the brand and to identify with its values.
The Essential Costa Rica country brand is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. How has the country brand helped boost Costa Rica’s tourism, exports, and foreign direct investment over the years?
Essential Costa Rica was created to position our country as a destination for tourism, exports, and foreign investment. As a country brand, we must also communicate the values that we, as Costa Ricans, believe in every day and which are in our DNA: innovation, social progress, excellence, sustainability and Costa Rican origin.
Studies by Bloom Consulting reflect a solid and integrated brand in tourism and commerce, that’s why we can affirm that Essential Costa Rica is the country brand with the biggest growth in America. This impacts all the sectors in the country and our international positioning.
Our licensing program ensures that companies who export products and services meet the standards required to represent our country to buyers. And at the same time, Essential Costa Rica helps promote our exports internationally through advertising and publicity in key markets. And it is present at international trade fairs.
Right now, we are preparing the next ten years for Essential Costa Rica, considering the interests of the public and private sectors, and also international trends. We want to continue to communicate our uniqueness and maintain the strong position of Essential Costa Rica among other country brands globally.
What does the future hold for the Essential Costa Rica country brand, having become synonymous with ecotourism and sustainability leadership?
Costa Rica’s position internationally as a destination brand used to have a very strong tourism component. That’s because for more than sixteen years, our Costa Rican Institute of Tourism built a strong image of our country as a green and ecotourism destination, with very successful advertising campaigns.
But ten years ago, when we launched Essential Costa Rica as a brand, the idea was to offer added value to different sectors, not just tourism, but also exports, foreign investment, and culture. We wanted to tell the world that we are more than just one aspect (tourism).
Essential Costa Rica is not just about the country’s promotion but also focuses on the private sector needs, public policies, and citizen engagement. We want to build an identity of the country which reflects the values we promote to international and national targets.
Costa Rica won the City Nation Place Awards 2022 in the Best Use of Design category for capturing the country’s identity in its new biometric passport. How relevant is this for the country brand as a whole?
Costa Rica celebrated 200 years of Independence in September 2021, so this worked in our favour. It was a great opportunity to show the world that Costa Rica is always moving forward. The challenge we put on ourselves was to transmit the essence and values of Costa Rica to every corner of the world, through our new biometric passport.
We had to bring an entire country on board, collaborating with more than seven state institutions during the pandemic, while working with international regulatory entities on migration security issues and coordinating production for the passports. This was a huge task.
Costa Rica is recognized worldwide in different areas, and one of the many challenges we faced was deciding what represented us the most. And after much investigation, we chose to showcase four elements of the country as our essence to the world: our biodiversity, renewable energy, education and peace, and the talent of our people.
The results exceed our expectations. The national and international media publicity was extensive and we made it to the headlines because the new passport design represented the essence of Costa Rica. And our reach continues to increase every time a Costa Rican travels abroad.
The climate emergency is now a global concern, and countries are taking measures to reverse this negative trend. How is this affecting the Costa Rica country brand?
As a country, Costa Rica has been a pioneer in protecting the environment and living in harmony with nature. We are a small country, but we have 6.5% of the world’s biodiversity. 26% of our territory right now are protected because our country leaders had the vision to create laws to preserve our lands and oceans.
We are one of the first countries to execute green ideas into action, like our Payments for Environmental Services Program. We have been able to stop deforestation and reverse it. Today almost 60% of Costa Rica’s territory is covered with forests.
We are currently working towards becoming the first carbon-neutral country in the world and we can proudly affirm that 99% of the electricity we use every day is from renewable sources, mainly wind power.
Your key takeaways from the Ibero-American Country Brand Forum, which took place in Uruguay in October 2022?
Each year we gather in this regional meeting to share learnings, best practices and trends related to country brands. In Uruguay, we had the opportunity to talk about results, not only linked to country brands but also city brands, like Barcelona.
Right now we are building the country brand for international audiences related to reputational objectives, and are consolidating the country brand nationally. We need our country brand to be a matter of pride for our citizens.
Another focus area is to highlight the importance of the brand for companies and develop more formal licensing programs to assure that their products and services represent the country brand values.
What suggestions do you have for country and destination branding professionals who are renewing their positioning efforts in these uncertain and geopolitically challenging times?
I suggest that professionals reevaluate the main message of the country brand, observe how other nations and cities may be talking about related topics, such as sustainability, and compare how your country communicates the message to the target audience to stand apart.
People want to be able to identify with your storytelling, especially when attracting visitors to your country. But there are also rational aspects you need to integrate, to appeal to investors.
Constant innovation is a must when you are developing a country brand.
It is also important to investigate the positioning of the brand among the citizens and if the country brand represents how they feel about the country and reflects their lifestyles, especially during these challenging times.
Thank you, Adriana.
Connect with Adriana Acosta on LinkedIn.
Take a deep dive into the country by visiting our Costa Rica showcase page.