‘No Artificial Ingredients!’ to ‘Save the Americans’: Costa Rica’s tourism campaigns

Costa Rica’s economy relies on North American tourism.

Costa Rica’s economy relies on tourism, and the country has spent nearly four decades trying to increase the number of international visitors.

From “No Artificial Ingredients!” to “Save the Americans,” let’s take a look at Costa Rica’s memorable tourism campaigns.

Costa Rica: It’s only natural

In the 1980s, ecotourism was “just beginning to emerge in the popular lexicon,” the United Nations says.

Seeing an opportunity, in 1984 Costa Rica began promoting its plethora of natural attractions. This was considered a unique approach, as at the time most neighboring countries advertised only their cities and their beaches.

Adopting the slogan “Costa Rica: It’s only natural,” the campaign was presented at North American tourism fairs and helped kickstart the country’s image as an eco-friendly destination.

Costa Rica’s stable and peaceful democracy certainly didn’t hurt, especially when compared to “troubled” El Salvador, “impoverished” Honduras, a Panama facing “political troubles,” or revolutionary Nicaragua, as a contemporary newspaper report so eloquently summarized.

No Artificial Ingredients!

“No Artificial Ingredients!” highlighted Costa Rica’s national parks, biodiversity, sustainability efforts and modern amenities.

The campaign “delivered excellent results,” according to former tourism minister Allan Flores. But within Costa Rica, some thought of the slogan as hypocritical, especially considering the country’s high pesticide use.

First launched in 1997, the “No Artificial Ingredients” slogan was used for more than a decade before it was phased out in 2013 for the “Essential Costa Rica” brand that persists today.

Million Dollar Gift of Happiness 

Why are Costa Ricans so happy? It might just be because of the talking, anthropomorphic sloths.

Mr. Sloth and his free trips to Costa Rica became an internet sensation in 2011, and tens of thousands of people entered the promotional giveaway contest. Even Anderson Cooper got involved, presenting a newlywed couple with a Gift of Happiness trip on his show.

Save the Americans! 

Do you need saving? Targeting overworked Americans* and Canadians, this 2014 campaign hoped to attract overstressed people yearning for a vacation.

This catchy ad won a “Webby” award as the Best Online Film & Video in the “Travel & Adventure” category. Unfortunately, through all our Costa Rica travels, we’ve never heard a macaw sound anywhere near this good.

* It’s somewhat funny that Costa Rica would offer to save the “Americans” when most Ticos would consider themselves to also be Americans, since they too are from the Americas.

Only the Essentials 

Costa Rica’s latest slogan launched in 2014, branding the country as “an opportunity to connect with the essence of life: nature, well-being, culture and adventure.”

This campaign still focuses on North America, though the Tourism Board has also promoted Costa Rica in important European markets. But it doesn’t feature any singing animals.

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