The Villafranca Zürcher Foundation was established in 2004 as part of the "Responsible Tourism Model of Hotel Punta Islita", winner of the Tourism for Tomorrow Investing In People Award recognized by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC); generating an integral process of local development.
The emphasis on Art and Culture has been the most innovative element of the VZ Foundation and its successful proposal has been a pioneer in Costa Rica, allowing it to receive international merit.
This Foundation has been essential in the creation, development and growth of the Islita Art Museum, Jon and Janie Mangus Day Care Center, the execution of the recognized project Caminos de Osa and various initiatives around human development.
Support sustainability and biodiversity efforts in tourism destinations, their integral local development and community based tourism.
Channeling of economic aid for projects that benefit the socio-economic and cultural development of the area of influence of Punta Islita.
Creation of a Development Model, taking advantage of tourism as a generator of rural development poles, which can be replicated in any area of the country and region.
Training and empowering all forms of community based tourism.
President & Director
The Villafranca Zürcher Foundation was created in 2004, by Eduardo Villafranca, pioneer in social responsibility and sustainable tourism, awarded as Businessperson of the Year 2008 by El Financiero, Harry Zurcher, renowned lawyer with extensive experience in Costa Rica; hand in hand with its Executive Director, Ms. Loida Pretiz, a leading community artist and gender equality specialist, current assistant of the Ministry of Culture and Youth of Costa Rica, who continues to be an important support for the VZ Foundation.
Currently, Eduardo Villafranca serves as President and Director of the Foundation, with the support of Karina Víquez as Project Manager. In addition, there is a network of strategic allies in the public and private sectors of the country, which allow the various projects and the challenges that each one represents to be carried out successfully.
RBA is a partner consultancy firm of the VZ Foundation, specialized in sustainability and development, with vast experience in the sustainable tourism industry, who assists in projects that involve such knowledge.
15 years of experience in promoting community development
7 projects successfully executed in 60 communities in Costa Rica
More than 10 consolidated alliances with the public and private sectors
68 ventures generated, in art and tourism industries
Promotion of employment, productive chains and local talent
Women's Art Groups
Management and channeling of a donation of $75,000 from Fundecooperación for training, empowerment, purchase of equipment, and the creation of utilitarian art with beach waste wood, for women's art groups in the communities of Corozalito and Bejuco, located in the province of Guanacaste.
Casa Museo is the showcase of local art, this project from the beginning and to date has brought development for Islita and its neighboring communities. With the opening of Casa Museo, the unique and authentic art of the area is known. One of the most important results that this project has generated is the local empowerment and development of Guanarte Art Collective, an association of 8 groups of women artists in different areas. Some of these groups are Papaturras, Pintarte, Bosquemar, Candemar and Cantarrias.
Currently, Casa Museo offers a range of cultural activities for the guests of Hotel Punta Islita, as well as for general visitors. The most attractive workshops are: making key chains, magnets, candles and traditional cuisine (arepas, tortillas, coffee and aguadulce). Additionally, private art projects such as jewelry, mosaic, engraving and painting are carried out.
Blue Traditions Exhibition 2019. Every New Year, Casa Museo holds an art exhibition with all local artist groups. For this 2019, the exhibition is called Blue Traditions. It is inspired by all those customs that the long-lived inhabitants of the Nicoya Peninsula have practiced, and that today is referred to as a “blue zone” in the world.
Jon and Janie Mangus Day Care Center
Management and channeling of a donation of $25,000 from the Foundation for the Environment, Arts, Culture and Youth of Costa Rica (EACY). This donation was used in the construction of the Jon and Janie Mangus Day Care Center.
Children's Program Rescuing Traditions
Management and channeling of the Rescuing Traditions program of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, for children from various communities in the province of Guanacaste through a fund of 5 million colones (CRC).
The VZ Foundation managed from different donors, including a Travel Philanthropy program at Hotel Punta Islita and an important donation from the United States EACY Foundation, the total sum of $230,000 for the construction of the current Islita School.
Once the construction was finished, this group of contributors committed to improve the quality of education, for which they have donated computers and English classes mainly. The interest of maintaining education in English remains, for which they pay the salary and living expenses of an American instructor who visits the school for periods of six months.
The same group has already made a partial donation for the construction of the school cafeteria which is in the process of building permits.
Caminos de Osa
The VZ Foundation was hired by the CRUSA Foundation and the INOGO Foundation (of Stanford University) to design and implement a plan to mitigate the threat to biodiversity in the Osa Peninsula, caused by local inhabitants dedicated to the Gold mining, illegal logging and hunting due to lack of employment opportunities.
The VZ Foundation outsourced the allied consulting firm Reinventing Business for All (RBA), for its extensive experience in generating and jointly building economic activities for at-risk communities, which led to Caminos de Osa, a rural community tourism program that fostered the creation of 45 ventures, and that obtained the Best Adventure Product Award in Fitur 2016 (Spain).
Each of the donors contributed with $250,000 and a complimentary donation of $220,000 from the Inter-American Development Bank was managed for this and other community development programs on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
In 2016, the founding member of VZ Foundation, Eduardo Villafranca had the great opportunity to meet Mr. Günter Koschwitz, Director of KATE, a nonprofit organization focused on advice and education on sustainable businesses, global justice and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Both decided to join forces through their organizations, and bring to Costa Rica the application of the German certification TourCert, which validates tourism sustainability in destinations and companies. TourCert is a founding member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), its criteria system is officially recognized by this entity and has a community of more than 400 certified members worldwide.
Through a donation of $82,000 from the German Development Cooperation Agency (GIZ), the certification was executed in Sarchí and Sarapiquí, in an intensive one-year process, which resulted in the training of entrepreneurs and local leaders in terms of sustainable tourism, TourCert Destination Certification in both Sarchí and Sarapiquí, 45 companies obtained the TourCert Check distinction and the creation of Sustainability Councils to ensure the continuity of this enriching process.
Currently, strategic support continues in both areas, through its Sustainability Councils and associated companies, promoting sustainable practices as well as tourism development from a cultural, natural and biodiversity perspective.
The VZ Foundation has had important donations along its path, which has managed responsibly and profitably. Among its main contributors, the Hotel Punta Islita stands out, which has promoted local development since its inception through various initiatives in Islita and nearby towns. One of its contributions is through Travel Philanthropy, a program that raises $5 per bill to hotel guests who wish to support the Foundation. Additionally, the owners of villas adjacent to the hotel provides financial support to cover expenses.
As an entity, the VZ Foundation has managed funds from sources such as: