The life and times of a sustainable tourism advocate

by Ivan Low (ELP 2016) | Senior Policy Officer, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Australia

I had the opportunity to meet with Jose (Boboi) Costas at the 2016 Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP). The Beahrs ELP at the University of California, Berkeley is an intensive summer certificate course that seeks to empower environmental practitioners to deliver solutions to complex environmental issues. It has been a privilege for me to be invited to participate in the 2016 ELP. Being part of the ELP allowed me to learn from leading environmentalists such as Jose on how to make the world a better place.

Jose has an inspiring career. He is an environmental practitioner from the Philippines with more than 25 years of experience in sustainable development. His environmental career included time working as a journalist covering environmental issues, a social entrepreneur and a community organizer.

As the founder of Grassroots Travel, an ecotourism consulting company, Jose has transformed various rural communities into sustainable tourism destinations. In addition, he has worked with local governments and the private sector on sustainable development projects. In 2015, Jose’s leadership in ecotourism was recognized when one of his projects won the Tourism InSPIRE Award for Best Community-based Tourism Initiative in Asia Pacific. The 2015 Tourism InSPIRE Awards was supported by the United Nations Environment Program and the Switch-Asia Regional Policy Support Component, and funded by the European Union. The proof of concept from Jose’s award-winning work is now being held as the gold standard in the ecotourism sector.

Jose promoting Philippine ecotourism at the 2016 Global Globe Awards.

As a believer in lifelong learning, Jose applied to the ELP to expand his knowledge on sustainable development and meet other passionate environmental leaders. While Jose has previously completed certificates on conservation, heritage studies and professional management, he trusts that completing the ELP will enable him to deliver better outcomes for the environment by exposing him to new insights and networks. Jose is thankful of the support from the ELP family and the generosity of various donors who made his participation in the 2016 ELP possible.

Jose’s sustainable development work has been an inspiration to his country. He was particularly humbled when he was featured in the cover story of Philippine Airline’s June 2016 inflight magazine (the same airline that he flew with on the way to attend the ELP that very month). That particular article was themed the Pride of the Filipino and focused on inspiring Filipinos. The other Filipinos that contended against Jose for the limelight in the article included Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, the winner of Miss Universe 2015, and Manny Pacquiao, the boxing champion.

Jose teaching fishermen how to use the Global Positioning System

Upon Jose’s return to the Philippines, he will commence his new role as Cebu’s first Provincial Tourism Officer. In this role, Jose will be leading a new provincial government agency in Cebu, a province subdivided into 6 component cities and 44 municipalities, and continue his work on sustainable tourism. I wish Jose all the best in his sustainable development work and I trust that the ELP will play a meaningful impact in his environmental journey.