If you’re like me, and you grew up in the 1970s, a great deal of your life was spent in front of the television watching Jacques Cousteau and his underwater adventures. It was how many people, including myself, learned about the ocean (and French accents). More than just learning about the ocean and the life that thrived within, we all learned about the importance of protecting and preserving that ecosystem, all around the world from those television shows. Now, almost 50 years later, the third generation of Cousteaus, including Jacques’ grandson Philippe, continue the tradition of educating the world about nature using today’s technology and media channels. Philippe Cousteau is an environmental activist who uses television, books and social media to drive change.
I had the opportunity to meet and interview Philippe at the SAHIC (South American Hotel Investment Conference, an entire convention dedicated to sustainable hotel development in Costa Rica. The conference was held in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica and Philippe was one of the keynote speakers. The event was hosted by the Costa Rican government and the location was quite appropriate as the country has incredible natural resources and must balance their preservation with a huge international tourism demand. The closing speaker of the conference was Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, the President of the Republic of Costa Rica, and he also spoke of the balance between protecting natural resources and promoting sustainable development.
It was fascinating to hear Philippe Cousteau speak on luxury travel and how travel is the single greatest transfer of wealth between rich and poor people around the world. He stressed how people can make such an impact with their dollars and by their careful choice of resorts that are truly sustainably developed and run, not just those that promote that image superficially. I also asked him about his bucket list destinations or destinations currently on his radar and he spoke fondly of a recent trip to Egypt and visit to the Ritz-Carlton property on the Nile River, along with a desire to someday visit Bhutan.
After the conference I spent an evening exploring San Jose, including a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the country’s national theater. The Teatro Nacional is an ornate, historic, late-nineteenth century building very reminiscent of the Opera Garnier in Paris. I also walked around the vibrant Plaza de la Cultura area and ended the evening with a lovely formal dinner at Grano de Oro, a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant. I look forward to returning to Costa Rica to get outside of San Jose to explore its rainforest, volcanoes and other natural wonders.