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In the News

Off the Beaten Path Client Chosen as Symbolic 2 Millionth Visitor to Costa Rica

by Susan Ewing


BOZEMAN, MT — February 2009 As the commercial flight into San Jose began its descent, Costa Rica’s Minister of Tourism and dozens of other dignitaries and media representatives had the gate area buzzing with anticipation for a very special family on board. One member of that family was about to become the symbolic 2 millionth visitor of the year to Costa Rica, a significant philosophical and economic milestone for the small Central American country. It was also a significant honor for the Bozeman, Montana-based travel company Off the Beaten Path, as the family was chosen based on the nature and quality of their OBP itinerary.

Instead of simply counting heads as the magic number drew near, the Costa Rican government decided to proactively choose a visitor who represented the spirit and practice of Costa Rica’s goals for its tourism industry: environmental, economic, and cultural sustainability. Calculating that the 2 millionth visitor would arrive in late December, Costa Rican officials put out a discreet call to travel companies asking for help in finding just the right symbolic visitor who would be traveling to their country at that time. OBP’s regional travel expert for Costa Rica, Erin Hamilton, immediately thought of a New Jersey family for whom she had just planned a very special journey using insights and connections she gained traveling through Costa Rica with the Rainforest Alliance. In the end, no other nomination had the same resonance with the country’s own ideals.

The journey that Hamilton created for Mark and Gretchen Biedron and their children featured some of the country’s truest eco-lodges, and included special activities designed to help them connect to the real Costa Rica—like helping in the kitchen of a jungle lodge to see what it takes to prepare food “off the grid,” in a place where nothing goes to waste.

“It was an honor to have the Biedrons and their journey chosen out of a worldwide pool of nominees,” said Hamilton. “They were amazed at the fanfare and attention they received at the airport and throughout their trip. The Biedrons’ personal commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility made them the perfect ambassadors.”

Off the Beaten Path founders Bill and Pam Bryan were pioneers of responsible travel when they established the business in 1986. Now led by CEO Cory Lawrence, OBP continues its mission of responsible and sustainable adventure travel, providing unique outdoor and cultural experiences throughout the Americas—from Alaska to the southern tip of South America, and in the last year, New Zealand.

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