Meeting planners, organizations, and business travelers alike are finally starting to realize that the value of attending a meeting or event goes beyond learning new professional skills, taking in information, and networking with others. Yes, attendees usually do get most of these things when they attend an event. But there’s also opportunity to create deep connections with colleagues and achieve inner personal development.

Costa Rica is one such destination that offers all of the practical necessities that meeting planners look for, such as advanced infrastructure, state-of-the-art connectivity, and a diverse set of attractions and activities. But the country — which the World Happiness Report ranked as the 12th happiest nation in the world and first among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for 2019 — also has a unique natural geographical environment that allows for transformational experiences that travelers increasingly seek out.

“There are many favorable aspects of Costa Rica that make it a prime destination for meetings,” said Rafael Quesada, chief of research and evaluation at The Costa Rica Institute of Tourism (ICT). “This includes our geographical location and global connectivity, our sustainable, innovative and inclusive tourism experiences, and our focus on aspects such as authenticity, nature, culture, peace, and well-being.”

The country has been rising to the top of meeting planners’ destination wish lists over the last few years. In Global DMC Partners’ 2018 Global Destination Index, which presents the most popular meeting and incentive destinations around the world for 2018 and identifies up-and-coming markets that are already trending for 2019, Costa Rica was ranked as number one on the 2019 Meeting & Incentive Destination ‘hot list.’ And according to information from the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), Costa Rica is the ninth most frequently chosen country in Latin America to host meetings, and 56th globally. The country has already hosted the World Veterinary Association Congress, the Central America Cruise Summit, and the Costa Rica Global Conference on Business and Finance, among many others, in 2019 alone.

Its growing popularity as a meetings and events destination makes sense. The country is easily accessible from the main cities in Latin America, North America, and Europe and is home to two international airports — Juan Santamaria in the Central Valley and Daniel Oduber Quirós in Guanacaste — totaling 500 flights weekly.

Hotels and meeting spaces are plentiful as well. The Guanacaste region has nearly 7,000 hotel rooms and a theater space with an 800-person capacity, while the Central Pacific region offers 2,200 rooms and an event venues with a 340-person capacity. The Costa Rica Convention Center, which provides meeting space for up to 3,000 is located in the Central Valley region, also home to 8,300 hotel rooms.

As Quesada explained, “We have made significant efforts to position Costa Rica as a solid destination in the tourism segment of meetings, events, congresses, and incentives in recent years through joint work with the private sector. The recent opening of the Costa Rica Convention Center is complemented by more high-end venues in San José. There has also been significant investment in development hotels that have the ideal characteristics to host large events in Guanacaste.”

It’s not difficult to find destinations that offer a large number of hotel rooms and meeting spaces. What makes Costa Rica different from your typical meeting or event locale is its unique natural geographical environment — filled with beaches, jungles, rainforests, volcanoes, flora and fauna — all of which have the possibility to inwardly transform visitors and meeting attendees. And while Costa Rica may be small, the country accounts for about 6 percent of the earth’s biodiversity.

Costa Rica offers a range of natural riches for team building purposes and group activities, as well as for attendees looking to relax during downtime while attending a work-related event. Attendees seeking adventure and team bonding have the opportunity to surf, snorkel, or scuba dive along the shores of Guanacaste or Puntarenas; hike, zipline, or ride horses alongside the active volcanoes of Arenal and Rincón de la Vieja; or white water raft in the Sarapiqui, Corobici, and Pacuare rivers. For those looking to relax and rejuvenate, whether alone or with colleagues or fellow meeting attendees, there are countless beaches and mountains one can explore through nature walks, hikes, or meditation. The country is also known for its abundance of yoga, spa treatment, and massage therapy offerings.

Costa Rica is a leader in sustainability as well, an issue that’s increasingly becoming top of mind for meeting planners, organizations, business leaders, and attendees. During 99 percent of the year, the country operates on “green electricity,” and it produces nearly 93 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. Nearly one-third of its territory is protected natural land, paid for by taxes from the sale of fossil fuels. And Costa Rica has lofty — but achievable — goals when it comes to sustainability in the future too. It’s aiming to become the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2021.

The wants and needs of meeting attendees are shifting. Meetings should not only be looked at as a time to enlighten and connect for work purposes but also reboot and recharge mentally. For more information about how meetings in Costa Rica can help planners provide their attendees with the opportunities to do so, visit www.costaricapuremeetings.com.

This content was created collaboratively by Visit Costa Rica and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.