Created at CIID (Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design)
Course: Service Design
Course Date: 28 Sep - 16 Oct 2020 | Production Timeline: 3 weeks
Faculty: Ana Domb | Andrea Mignolo
Team: Alejandro Segura | Diana Pang | Martin Altanie | Ooi Shin
Tools: Service Design frameworks, Figma, Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere, Miro
Tourism, both international and domestic, is a great source of economic health for Costa Rica. From just under 500,000 international visitors in 1990 to 3 million in 2019, tourism is a large contributor to the country’s GDP. 
The coronavirus pandemic has shown us what the world looks like when international travel grinds to a halt and major sources of revenue are no longer available. Our systems and services must be flexible and resilient enough to reconfigure as the world changes, ebbs, and flows around us, while still contributing to the economic health of Costa Rica.
How might tourism become more resilient and life-centered while simultaneously expanding the economic growth of Costa Rica?
Through our research with Costa Rica tourism industry leaders, local makers, and travelers who have been to Costa Rica, we discovered people look for genuine connections between experiences and tangibility, with souvenirs extending stories of people beyond time and space. 
Most makers operate in a brick-and-mortar model with limited digital presence and resources to market their products. While makers acknowledge the community is hyperconnected, more collaboration is desired but there isn’t an easy way to do so. On another side, travelers wish for more engagement with locals and sharing stories about their travels through authentic souvenirs.​​​
‘Soulvenir’ is a service that matches local makers and travelers through local experiences and products, while providing opportunities for local businesses to collaborate with each other.
‘Soulvenir’ suggests tailored activities for travelers based on their preferences and interests, hosted by local makers and their connections in the Compa (‘friends’ in Costa Rican Spanish) Network. Travelers receive locally produced souvenirs at the end of each experience.
Through sharing knowledge, ‘Soulvenir’ allows local makers and travelers to connect, providing cross-cultural (locals to travelers) and multi-disciplinary (makers to makers) exchange that shares the culture and strengthens resilience within the tourism ecosystem in Costa Rica.
Tailored Suggestions
Travelers want experiences that best suit their interests.
The application suggests tailored activities for travelers based on their preferences and interests, filtering out activities that are irrelevant.
Authentic Local Experiences
Travelers value authentic experiences when they travel.
By introducing travelers into the local network, travelers get to experience how locals interact with each other and the local culture.
Are you a good match?
Travelers are required to answer some customized screening questions set up by local makers to determine if they are a good fit for the activity
Digital Twin
Travelers can log their souvenirs as mementos by scanning the Soulvenir after the experience, which also prompts travelers to leave a feedback for the local makers.
Let’s Talk!
Good relationships and collaborations happen when trust each other.
Makers can establish connections with a Compa by validating a physical code, encouraging an in-person meeting to discuss the collaboration.
Request for Compa Collaboration
Map-based interface shows local makers their Compa Network, allowing them to see established and potential collaborators around them. 
Show Me The Numbers
By providing monthly reports and other analytics, it helps local makers understand better about their customers and their business.
Continuous Training
Certificates and badges can be earned through attending workshops such as business operations and sustainability, to show makers’ commitment to the Compa Community and environment.
What did we want to learn?
Through research, our objective was to study the tourism ecosystem in Costa Rica and uncover the needs of both travellers and local businesses owners, as well as how COVID-19 is impacting tourism in the community.
What did we do?
We drew insights from both travellers who have been to Costa Rica, current travellers, and local makers to learn about their desires and challenges, supplemented by literature review on the future of tourism post COVID-19.
- In-depth interviews
- Site visits
- Intercept interview
- Social listening
- Literature review

- Ecosystem map
- Personas
- User journey map
We started the research by doing ecosystem mapping of the tourism ecosystem in Costa Rica. Our aim is to validate our assumptions of the interactions between local businesses and travellers. We identified three areas for further exploration:
- Create flows between different actors and improve resilience of the system
- Extend Costa Rica’s experiential tourism to other untapped experiences
- Unlock value embedded in the ecosystem
Concurrently we also reviewed some literature on the impact of COVID-19 on tourism and identified three opportunity areas based on UN’s recommendations:
- Embracing local values
- Advancing digitalization of the tourism ecosystem
- Promoting coordination and partnerships to build resilience
To get a broad look at the souvenir offerings in Costa Rica, we created Facebook post in a Costa Rica expat group asking for recommendations. We learned that:
- There’s a wide range of souvenirs from handcrafted wooden gifts to machete.
Coffee related merchandise is the most popular souvenir by far.
- Local produce is recognised for its quality.
We hit the streets of San José and found one tourist from the US after three hours. We did some quick card sorting activities to understand his expectations and experience as a tourist in Costa Rica. It was a challenging task given the COVID travel restrictions and San José not being a tourist destination.
We spent 9 hours conducting in-depth interviews to explore:
- Travelers | Travel goals and travel process, from planning through execution
- Local businesses | Their wants and challenges
- Tourism experts | Overview of the challenges and trends in the tourism sector in Costa Rica
Having conducted our in-depth interviews with local makers and traveller, we consolidated our findings into personas and map out their journeys through a transaction (from pre-sales to post-sales) for makers and travel experience (from planning to post travel) for travellers.
How might we leverage Costa Rica’s hyper-connectivity to connect travellers and local communities?
What opportunity areas did we identify?
1. Creating personalized experiences for travelers
Travelers look for recommendations to find authentic experiences that best suit their interests, and rely on contextual information (e.g. stories and anecdotes) to assess their options.
2. Connecting travelers with locals
Travelers enjoy meeting locals; casual encounters make the travel experience feel personal and authentic.
3. Innovating and sustaining local businesses
With Costa Rica’s hyperconnected network, local businesses want to form partnerships with and learn from other businesses but there isn’t an easy way to do so.
Based on our research insights, we brainstormed on a list of prompts and collated our ideas. We then abstracted our ideas into themes for further exploration. The two themes that intrigued us were: extending the travel experience through souvenirs and showing the lives of Costa Rican people through daily objects and experiences.
Exploring how we could materialise our concepts, we defined the values and key features we wanted for our service to provide for both local makers and travellers. We used storyboarding to construct a narrative to imagine how this service would be used in context. We then created wireframes of the key features for our low fidelity paper prototype.

Adding a connection to the Compa network by scanning a QR code

Adding a registered Compa to a collaborate on crafting an experience


Local makers getting a notification when travellers indicate their interest

Chat function is activated only if there is mutual interest from the local makers

What did we want to find out?
With our prototypes, we conducted six hours of co-creation and testing sessions with a traveller, a local maker, and two subject matter experts, to understand how different touch points in the service match with users’ motivations.
How did we test it out?
Think Aloud | After presenting the general overview of the service, we asked participants to describe how they would imagine the service to look like.
Roleplaying | We then introduced the prototype and asked the participants to guide us through how they would use it in specific scenarios, followed with questions on functionality and interactions to find out which features they would like to add or remove.
Contextualize | Following a quick debrief, we asked participants to imagine how this service would change their experience pre, during, and post travel (for travelers) / transaction (for local makers).
What did we learn from the sessions?
Overall, both travelers and local makers saw the value from the prototypes.
Our maker participant was particularly excited about the prospects of the positive externalities generated through communal collaboration and using the service as a tool to build connections to their customers.
‘This really made me think about how I can partner with other businesses to create something new together.’ — Local Maker
One thing that was mentioned during our co-creation sessions was that local artisans often feel the travelers and tourists do not respect their space and act in a way that is disrespectful. Local makers also noted they would like more help with understanding their customers and how to operate their business in a sustainable way.
Based on the feedback from the co-creation and testing sessions, we added a screening function for local makers to filter out travelers they deem as incompatible, so travelers will not be able to connect with them unless the request is approved by makers.
To provide more support for local businesses, we added an insights and analytics section for local makers, as well as offline workshops for ongoing training and development.
We created service blue print to details the interactions, and then made a storyboard to shoot the concept video.
Given the limited time (three weeks) and the circumstance (travel restrictions owing to COVID-19), we would have liked to test with more travelers. Some potential next steps to explore:
- Spanish version for local makers and intermediary translation services during the experience
- Collaborate with Souvenir Museum for a local artisan outreach programme
- Develop a feasible business model that is fair amongst local collaborators
- Explore possibilities for small group traveling (up to 3)
- Virtual experiences in case of future travel restrictions
Priscilla Aguirre, Thikshan Arulampalam, Alejandro Castro, Ana Castro, Claudio Corrales, Ubaldo Andrea Desiato, Anna Hartly, Alberto Font, Matthew Giffen, Juan José Bolaños Herrera, Melissa Jiménez, Michelle Kwok, Simona Maschi, Mónica Mendoza, Stephanie Monterrosa, Yara Mourelo, Lidia Sancho, Liliana Tagini, Stephanie Yong
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