Social Progress Index Wins United Nations Award

The Social Progress Index in Tourism Destinations in Costa Rica has been honored by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as the first runner-up for its Award for Innovation in Public Policy & Governance. The Award was just announced today at the UNWTO Awards Forum in Madrid, Spain.

Watch today’s announcement.


Published and streamed live on YouTube on January 18, 2017; Madrid, Spain

“Today, we have the instrument to generate a roadmap of actions and social interventions that meet the needs of the community,” said the President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís in a video shown at the event. “It also strengthens the role of the tourist sector as a lever of regional and national development promoting inclusive economic growth.

Comparing specific indicators of wellbeing in the tourism destinations to specific indicators of wellbeing in neighboring cantons revealed that on 7 of the 12 components of the Social Progress Index, the impact of tourism was both positive and broad.

  • Nutrition and Basic Medical Care: Tourist destination areas have greater access to basic health care.
  • Water and Sanitation: Tourist destination areas present a positive impact with regard to access to drinking water.
  • Shelter: Tourist destination areas perform better than their cantons, particularly in terms of overcrowding.
  • Personal Safety: tourist destination areas are safer areas.
  • Access to information and Communications: Tourist destination areas have greater access to Internet and communication technologies than the cantons.
  • Environmental Quality: Tourist destination areas have been a productive and balanced model for environment protection.
  • Access to Advanced Education: All tourist destination areas obtained better results than their corresponding cantons in terms of the percentage of people with advanced education.

The new Index drives a dashboard that includes views of Basic Human Needs across the tourism destination areas.

“We wanted to measure social progress in these towns to identify ways the industry benefits Costa Rica’s economy and society. This strategic analysis will allow us to promote innovative joint actions by state, civil society and private businesses to strengthen tourism and its positive impact on tourist communities,” said Mauricio Ventura, Minister of Tourism.

The new Index also acts as a common reference of human wellbeing in the country around which different institutions can collaborate to improve lives. Social innovators, traditionally focused on urban areas, are expected to launch new initiatives specific to an area’s needs to improve lives. Among the common areas of deficiencies identified:

  • Access to Basic Knowledge: due to the lack of education among the adult population found in the areas.
  • Health and Wellness: a risk for tourist destination areas, primarily due to obesity and alcoholism.
  • Tolerance and Inclusion: only half of the tourist destination centers are more tolerant and inclusive with LGBT population.
  • Personal Freedom and Choice: teen pregnancies and the lack of contraceptive methods are considered serious problems that limit freedom in these areas and have a direct effect on the inclusion of women in the community.

Earlier this week, Roberto Artavia Loria, Vice Chair of Social Progress Imperative, and Mauricio Ventura, Minister of Tourism of Costa Rica, presented the Index at the annual meeting of the UNWTO. They shared a video explaining how Costa Rica is using the new Index to measure well-being in tourist destinations. The video included remarks by the President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís.

Watch the video presented on Monday.


Published and streamed live on YouTube on January 16, 2017; Madrid, Spain

The UNWTO Awards Forum showcases the innovative and excellent initiatives of UNWTO Awards finalists and allows the international tourism sector to learn from their outstanding achievements. It also serves as a world-class platform to bring together policy makers, tourism practitioners, and tourism academia including UNWTO Ulysses Prize Laureates to share their knowledge about innovation in tourism.

This Social Progress Index is a collaboration between the Costa Rica Tourism Board (Instituto Costarricense de Turismo) and our regional partner CLACDS of INCAE Business School.

Learn more about the new Index on the website of the Costa Rica Tourism Board.

Learn more about the UNWTO awards on the UNWTO website.

Read about creating a Social Progress Index for a community your care about.