Models of Ecotourism

By Jaimi Gregory, Aanthony Pedroni, Analiza Quiroz, Kevin Wegener


Ecotourism in Australia:


Killing Two Birds with One Stone

Preserving Biodiversity and the Well-Being of Indigenous People


By Jaimi Gregory


Around the world, terrestrial ecosystems are becoming farmland and are falling victim to suburban housing developments, highways, and continuously expanding cities.Many species are on the verge of extinction and their natural habitats are falling to this increased industrialization.The decreasing existence of biodiversity is a worldwide concern, however some suggest that the extent of this biodiversity problem is not fully realized by the majority of the population."The vast range of organisms that exist in global systems-from microbes to fungi, plants and animals-plays a far greater role in our everyday lives than we think."' Hence, ecosystems provide human beings with replenished oxygen, an enriched, cleansed atmosphere as well as many other vital components necessary for human life.

Consequently, our dire need for preserved ecosystems has been realized by many countries.The realization of this need by these economically-driven countries has acted as a catalyst for the innovation of a business called "ecotourism".The purpose of ecotourism is to create incentive to preserve ecosystems while at the same time gaining economic profit."Ecotourism" is a nature-based fon-n of specialty travel defined by the Ecotourism Society (TES) as "responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people." In essence, "ecotourism" has become the manifestation of an economically driven world determined to "have its cake and eat it too", by preserving the environment and providing economically for indigenous people at the same time.In essence, ecotourism is a business that has the potential for not only helping

the country to bring in money and preserve the environment, but also to provide job opportunities for its people.

Ecotourism is an important topic to study because of its growing influence on tourist travel.On the global scale, we see that ecotourism is moving up on the charts as a desirable activity- and one that is making an economic impact.According to Ceballos-Lascurain (1993) a WTO report estimates that nature tourism generated 7% of all international travel expenditure (Lindberg, 1997).Although the tourism business is notorious for its somewhat questionable statistics, it would be fair to say that ecotourism is making an economic impact globally.The World Tourism Organization claims that the industry looked after 592 million travelers in 1996 who spent $423 billion.Some suggest that it seems that ecotourism could be the fastest growing part of it.

Among world leaders in ecotourism, Australia is prominent due to the beauty of its native grasslands, its wetlands, and the diversity of its wildlife.While the Commonwealth Government of Australia deals with the double pressures of conserving Australia's environment while providing jobs for its people, Australia is making positive steps forward in preserving the environment and indigenous culture without exploiting nature and the people.Tourism is one of Australia's fastest growing industries (accounting for 14.5% of Australia's total export earnings, surpassing earnings from traditional commodities such as coal, gold, cereal grains, wool and meat, gives hope to this situation.Therefore, anticipating that ecotourism will become a more prominent and contributing percentage of that sector, institutions, programs and mandates have been adopted by Australia to ensure the protection and vitality of not only the environment but the economic well-being of the indigenous population.

Some expedition brochures of Australia guarantee special perks included in their mission of enabling people to explore the diverse wildlife, plant life and aboriginal heritage of Australia.With promises of exploring the wetlands and aboriginal artwork of tropical Arnhem Land, to sighting Koalas in southern eucalyptus forests, and experiencing where kangaroos, cockatoos, platypus, tree kangaroos and crocodiles all dwell, some expeditions carry a maximum group size of 16, and claim to be suitable for most ages with small lodges and tented camps are provided.So far, only Australia has an accreditation system to rate tour operators and resorts on the basis of their "greenness".However, among all these promises, the question must be asked, "How is the environment and ecosystems of Australia being affected and who is benefiting from this business?" The issue of how ecotourism affects the environment and its native population is important and must be addressed.Environmental damage has already been done worldwide due to forestry, creating farmland, industrialization, etc., and Australia's commitment to conserving the environment while at the same time providing economically for its people (specifically the indigenous Aboriginals) must be examined.

Ideally, ecotourism helps not only nature, but people as well.Ecotourism ideally provides jobs for indigenous people while preserving the environment and wildlife by the preservation of natural habitats.The effect ecotourism has on nature and human environments is diverse.While many people around the world fail to acknowledge that the there is a biodiversity problem, Australia has become a good example of a environmentally-conscious country.Committed to the preservation of its beautiful land, wild life and the well-being of its people, Australia has some 5,800 terrestrial and marine sites that are presently recognized as protected areas.National parks, nature reserves, marine parks, and other designations are specially designed and internationally defined as "areas of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means".'

Australia has established programs that are solely focused on the preservation of the environment.Strictly as a part of the Commonwealth Government's commitment to the preservation and management of Australia's environment, a number of community-based nature conservation programs have been initiated to protect and regenerate native vegetation.An example of this is the "One Billion Tree Program" (established in 1989) whose goal is to have one billion more trees planted and growing by the year 2000.Complimentary to this program is the "Save the Bush" program that attempts to protect and facilitate programs for the management of remnant vegetation.Accompanying these programs is a world class forest conservation reserve system that is geared to the preservation and sustainable management of the environment.

Environmentally focused conservation programs have been made priorities for the country, however Australia has professed to be not only concerned with the environment, but the well-being of its native population as well.Ideally, ecotourism helps both nature and people.Ecotourism ideally provides jobs for indigenous people while preserving the environment and wildlife by the preservation of natural habitats.Programs have been established in Australia to provide jobs for native people while at the same time promoting the preservation and enjoyment of the country's beautiful land and wildlife.A number of organizations established that strive to preserve the environment, similar to the programs mentioned previously, also promote the employment and job advancement of the Aboriginal people.These organizations, in essence, seek to kill two birds with one stone.One program, called the "Biodiversity Group", is a group that is involved in cooperative programs for the conservation and management of native species and ecological systems outside protected areas. The Biodiversity Group not only seeks to conserve species and land, but also to create indigenous peoples' involvement in natural and cultural resource management.While conserving and managing threatened species, ecological communities, and remnant vegetation, this group administers international conservation treaties, coordinates conservation products and educates people about the environment.

On the whole, ecotourism is a business that has the potential for not only helping the country to bring in money and preserve the environment, but also to provide job opportunities for its people.For example, "Indigenous Protected Area" programs exist that aim to facilitate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander estate holders in managing their estate for its natural and cultural values.This is being achieved through extensive consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander landholders and representative organizations, and with State and Territory nature conservation agencies. Along with this program, TAP (Training for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders Program) provides training and employment opportunities by increasing the skills of the people.However, without the skills and training, the indigenous people are destined for lives of poverty in a newly European industrialized culture.Outside of their previous existence and habitat as warriors living off the land, indigenous people will suffer if they are not provided with the skills necessary to work in businesses such as ecotourism.For example, as depicted in film, Once Were Warriors, the indigenous people of Australia were warriors at one time in their existence and were people of "manner, pride and spirit".However, away from their previous existence, many of the people have succumbed to violence and alcoholism in the industrialized land.Some of the people dwell in the slums of the city and some even sleeping in junk yards and old automobiles.People live life day to day to survive in despair and with little hope for the future. Many single males and husbands alike pass time in bars and in essence "drink their lives away".Consequently, violence is common especially domestic violence.It could be argued that this way of life, a lifestyle very different from their ancestors, has been transformed and effected by the industrialization of the land and the Anglo-European authority in power.Lack of education and literacy provides little opportunity for job advancement and keeps the indigenous city-dwellers dependent on those in authority.The indigenous live a dependent life and this affects the indigenous person's outlook on life.In fact, in the film Once Were Warriors , unemployment is depicted as a stress that acts as a catalyst for domestic violence and abuse.It also could be argued that the need for money drives people to alcoholism.In despair, women and children are subject to violence and sexual abuse by men and the cycle of helplessness and the resortment of a sub-optimal way of life continues.

In order to protect indigenous people from unemployment at poverty, while at the same time providing for the preservation of the environment, the Government has initiated the development of the "National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Tourism Strategy" to enhance opportunities for "self-determination, self-management, and economic self-sufficiency in tourism for indigenous Australians".Here, the government not only recognizes the economic benefit that the tourism industry could provide for the indigenous people, but it also voices its realization that tourism can help unite its population (indigenous and non-indigenous)."Tourism ventures can heighten interest in and help sustain a community's culture and play an important role in reconciliation by helping non-indigenous people to understand and appreciate indigenous cultures and values" '. One example of this governmental resolution is a program called "Desert Tracks" that is owned by an Aboriginal council and employs a manager and 20 casual staff (all indigenous apart from the manager).Desert Tracks is an educational ecotour that teaches Aboriginal law, culture and lifestyle.' Although income is not constant or secure, the indigenous people of the program hope that as time goes on, the young people of their community will be trained in how to run the business.As indigenous people are trained to be guides, interpreters, cooks and office staff, the business will eventually thrive by the time their grandchildren need a job."This business keeps alive our laws and culture, and can provide skilled work for our families" said a worker.In essence, the indigenous people believe that non-indigenous people need to understand that Aboriginal law is in the land.By understanding the land (participating in ecotours or living off the land), the Aboriginals feel that they are keeping the land alive.Hence, the government recognizes that three birds can be killed with the same stone: economic opportunity for Aboriginals, a unification of the non-indigenous and indigenous peoples of Australia, and environmental preservation of the environment.

Other examples of jobs for indigenous people that aim to protect and preserve the environment have been associated with some of Australia's official reserves and national parks.These parks have not only simply created jobs for the indigenous people, but have also put them in authority positions.For example, three of the six common wealth national parks and reserves are jointly managed by Aboriginal owners.These parks and reserves that serve Australia not only as preservation devices to bring in money to the country, but also provide job opportunities include: Australian National Botanic Gardens, Kakadu National Park, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Booderee National Park, Norfolk Island National Park and Botanic Garden, Christmas Island National Park, Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve, Coringa-Herald & Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve, and Elizabeth & Middleton Reefs Marine National and Nature Reserve.

In order to combat vast unemployment and poverty among the indigenous people, a government program has been established to develop employment and training opportunities for indigenous people.And is coordinated under the Aboriginal Employment Development Policy (AEDP).This program, which has been in operation for ten year, strives to achieve equity for indigenous people in the areas of employment, income, education and independence from welfare.The last review was in 1994 and some significant improvements in indigenous employment have been achieved.This does not hide the fact that, particularly in the private sector, the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians still exists.However, projects are underway to narrow this gap.For example, one project labeled "Capacity Building" is an approach by Conservation International to ensure ecotourism benefits communities and merges with traditional practices and conservation.Around the world, this ecotourism program provides effective training for both Cl-local staff and community members to help them understand and manage ecotourism enterprises.In addition to conducting training workshops, the Ecotourism Program supports capacity-building by helping to detail information on model ecotourism projects in the form of case studies.Highlights of the programs capacity building efforts include the Brazil Train-the Trainers Workshops, and important case studies on Cl's ecotourism efforts in Guatemala and Ghana.The Extent of Cl's influence on Australia is unknown, however, the fact that there is an existence of Aboriginal management in three of the six commonwealth national parks speaks for itself that the idea of including members of the indigenous community in the business of ecotourism is catching on.




The effect that ecotourism has on nature and human environments is diverse.In relation to the effect of attracting tourists, some might suggest that the very tourist who ventures to search natural habitat and learn more first hand about traditional cultures invariably changes them.However, the flip side of this argument might be that it is not a negative thing if it helps to reduce, for example, death and illiteracy within the indigenous population (through economically providing for the indigenous people by providing them jobs).Some critics have claimed that many ecotourism ventures market tourism as environmentally friendly, but in fact destroy the very ecosystems they claim to protect.However, when planned and implemented properly, ecotourism can be both an effective conservation tool and successful community development model." Thus, we can see that ecotourism's biggest problem could be its labeling".For the last 15 years, ecotourism has been heralded as one of the most promising tools for the conservation of natural habitats.It's no wonder that Conservation International (CI) believes that attaching the 4 6 ecotourism" label to poorly planned projects provides local populations with little besides social tension and environmental degradation, while leaving the tourist dissatisfied and cheated.Therefore, we may assume that if organized well, ecotourism can continue to benefit both the environment and indigenous peoples.

In light of the preponderance of evidence, we may conclude that ecotourism in Australia has been a positive influence on not only the environment, but the native population as well.Particularly in Australia, although the country still has a ways to go in terms of securing the preservation of the land and the rights of its indigenous population, it is making many positive strides forward.In addition, a preponderance of evidence suggests that ecotourism, specifically in Australia, is beneficial because it provides economic and social incentives that further the cause of environmental protection in the country.Hence, we may conclude that the benefits of ecotourism in Australia and the government's commitment to preserve natural habitats and to provide opportunities for indigenous people makes it an advantageous and an efficacious endeavor.


Ecotourism in Kenya: A Delicate Balance of Ecotourism and Ecology

By Anthony Pedroni


The burning of forests, big game hunting, poaching, industrial development, and the destruction of water resources are methods, used to ruin the environment.The rate of depletion of resources is far outpacing the efforts to conserve them.The world needs a solution, an alternative to the current norm, that can survive the world wide standard of success, money.The solution needs to be beneficial to the environment, but in order to work as a viable option for organizations it needs to be profitable.The current movement toward ecotourism looks as if it can be a part )f the solution.

The world of ecotourism has taken many different approaches to solving the problem of depleting resources.We have seen what is being done in other regions of the world from the previous sections of the paper.Kenya is a good example of what can be done in a portion of the environment that stands the most to lose.We will be looking at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.The Conservancy is a non profit organization that has found a way to preserve a large parcel of land without producing a tremendous profit.On the other hand there is the Abercrombie and Kent ecotourism company.This is business with an established reputation in the tourism community that finds success through the method of offering vast arrays of vacation opportunities and educational experiences.Both approaches help to conserve the environment 'in their own way.Is one better than the other?Is it better to have a profit motive or a-.i environment motive?The answers to these questions are found by comparing the business practices and goals of the two approaches, and then looking at the results.

The first problem with solidifying ecotourism as a viable solution is the fact it does not have a clear definition.The Ecotourism Society published a paper, with the assistance of many leading environmentalist, conservancies, and tour companies, in 1993 that established unofficial guidelines for the ecotourism industry.In the paper the Society outlines guidelines from the following list: "Visitor information and Education, minimizing visitor impact, prevention of improper cultural impact, use of adequate leadership, tours in small groups, have an educated staff,, be a contributor to the conservation of regions visited, provide local employment in all aspects of business operations, and provide non wasteful accommodations for guests."(The EcotourismSociety, 1993) These are very broad guidelines but as the Society states, "this has never been done before." It is their hope, however, that these guidelines will be used in the future to judge the effectiveness of ecotour companies; assisting in areas of need

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is an example of an organization working to fulfill the guidelines establish by the Ecotourism.The Conservancy was officially founded on April 1, 1993 by David and Delia Craig.Located about 65 kilometers northeast of Nairobi, in the foothills of Mount Kenya, the conservancy now watches over 267 square kilometers of land. ( Lewa strives to maintain non-profit status, financing from outside donations in the short term, establish a strong balance between wildlife and farming, and to, increase environmental awareness.Lewa is accomplishing these goals with varying degrees of success on their own, however, their political connections are what set them apart from other environmental organizations.

Lewa is an officially recognized organization by the Kenyan government.The government offers support to the Conservancy financially and politically.It became an official non-profit organization two years aft.:-,r its establishment. ( This statues gives it financial exemptions which lessen the burden on Lewa's already tight bu('@get.Furthermore, the good relationship with the government allows Lewa to try new and innovative conservation measures that would not have been approved under different circumstances.Other conservancies have followed

the same path in other regions, but the idea of land set aside for animals had never been successful in Africa.Lewa is different because it has experienced a larger amount of funding from outside sources in addition to its strong political ties.

Currently the Conservancy is dependent upon donations in order to maintain its operations.The total yearly operating budget for Lewa is $700,000.The goal of the Conservancy is to at some point become completely self sustaining.In 1998 fifty-six percent of the operating budget came from donations, down from over seventy percent in 1995. ( The Conservancy plans on making money from a combination of tourism/conservation and fanning.It is the balance between the two bitter rivals which makes Lewa so incredible and so effective.

Before Lewa came into existence the majority of the land was used for farming.The never-ending conflict between the wild and the farmers led to numerous deaths of elephants, rhinos, and other creatures, including farmers.There needed to be a way for the members of the surrounding community to sustain themselves through farming while working within a system designed to protect the animals.Lewa was successful at convincing the local farmers that a compromise was a good idea.The Conservancy was able to fence off a portion of the land and set -it aside to allow animals to roam "freely".On the other side of the fence, the local farmers were able to plant their crops without having to worry about them being destroyed by the large animals.Lewa's administrator speaks of the fence's success in and article by John Nyaga, "'Before the fence was constructed farmers in the area used to kill iup to seven elephants a year to protect their crops,' LWC administrator Simon Marriot said."(Nyaga, 1997) This policy of not shutting out the local people, but creating opportunity for them to succeed, opened many doors for Lewa.

The conservation efforts by Lewa have, been successful.The justification of the success is reflected in the number of animals now under the direct protection of the conservancy.Lewa is home to over twenty four black rhinos, approximately 5% of the total population in Kenya. The Grevy zebra population has done better within the fences of Lewa than on its own in the wild.There are now over five hundred of these animals on the conservancy, a 650% increase over the amount of zebras in the area in 1977. ( The white rhino and elephants have also benefited from the amount of protection they receive.On its web site Lewa boasts of its rhino success, "Since their return to Lewa NO rhino have been lost to poachers.The Conservancy's aim is to have a minimum number of 50 from each species - this being the smallest number for a group which is considered worldwide to be genetically viable." ( Lewa has been a safe haven for the local animals, but this protection does not come without financial cost.

The protection of the wildlife is nothing short of spectacular.The security personnel make up roughly 65% of the entire working force of the conservancy.The annual operating budget is dominated by the cost of protecting the animals.The extreme numbers of such a large security force is reflected in the incredible figure of at least one man working security for every 2.5 square miles. ( /lewa/lewa98wp.php3) This is a good example of how the value of the animals and the land is greater alive than dead.The Conservancy spends a lot of time and money protecting the animals as if they are rare pieces of art.To sustain the protection the Conservancy relies what is now becoming its greatest source of income, tourism.

Within the boundaries of the conservancy there is a limited amount of ecotourism allowed.One of the goals of ecotourism is to, preserve and protect and the policies at Lewa reflect dedication to these principles.There are currently two companies allowed to run tours on the Conservancy, Wilderness Trails and Lerai Tented Camp.The catch to the tours is that there is a limit of sixty tourists who may be within the Conservancy at any given time.All of the money earned from the tourism has to be put back into the Conservancy because of its non-profit status. ( /lewa/lewa98wp.php3) Therefore the land and the animals benefit because every Schilling the land produces is given back to it.

The limit on tourism is not intended to discourage the public access to the animals, or to limit the educational opportunities for the general public.Lewa plans on increasing the amount of tourist allowed in the park, but only as long as the land can handle the load.The Conservancy will also be reaching out to the local public in an attempt to provide first hand educational opportunities.Lewa, in conjunction with the Kenyan government, is in the early stages of building four primary schools around the perimeter of the Conservancy.This is in addition to the health clinic funded by the conservancy and its continuous employment of local workers.In his article Nyaga illustrates Lewa's motivation behind the community involvement.He says, "The conservancy has provided employment and built and funded a medical clinic for the estimated 4,000 people who live next to the conservancy, hence motivating them to conserve wildlife." (Nyaga 1997) These are examples of Lewa's efforts to establish the ideal ecotourism opportunity in East Africa, furthermore, Lewa has only begun its long range plans.

In the future Lewa plans to continue in the same direction.On their web page they say: "A value must be placed on wildlife, and the revenue it has earned must radiate outwards.To this end increased efforts will be made to assist neighboring communities in five ways: employment, schools, healthcare, a solution to humane/wildlife conflict and by initiating revenue - generating community wildlife schemes." ( /lewa/lewa98wp.php3) Lewa intends to create a situation where local people can feed off of the Conservancy's prosperity.

An alternative approach to Lewa is the Abercrombie and Kent ecotourism company.Abercrombie is one of the largest, most established companies in the ecotourism industry.Their operations span several continents; offering a wide range of ecotourism opportunities.One of their most popular destinations is East Africa.They run numerous safaris in Kenya, with many of the same wildlife attractions as the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.Abercrombie and Kent advertise their ecologically minded operation, but it is truly a low impact and highly effective tour company?The simple

answer to this question is yes and no; they do tread lightly on the environment, but they passively conserve and protect through the method of education and donating to parks

Abercrombie and Kent is centered in the United States.Unlike Lewa who has the official recognition and support of the Kenyan government, Abercrombie does not advertise any endorsements by governments.This does not detract from the business of a world-wide tourism company, however, it does illustrate how the local people are not included in the ecotourism windfall.The company does give money to the parks that it runs its tours in.On their web page they say,' Abercrombie & Kent donates a substantial percentage of its Africa revenues to Friends of Conservation (FOC), a non-profit organization."( Abercrombie knows who really sustains their business, the wildlife, conservancies who do the protecting of the land and animals, while offering employment for the local people.

Abercrombie and Kent do not take care of the average local person at the wildlife park they visit.They do not directly offer anything for the people, like the farmers, who may need some assistance if the local wildlife park is taking over their land.The Ecotourism Society specifically says that an effective ecotourism company will, "Provide local people with a full range of opportunities beyond the service employment sector."(The Ecotourism Society, 1997) The wildlife park may use some of the proceeds from Abercrombie to employ local workers, however, the responsibility to maintain a good relationship with the local people is not actively done by Abercrombie and Kent.

The money issue is the main difference between the Lewa approach to ecotourism and the Abercrombie and Kent approach.Lewa runs its operation on a very tight budget and as, covered earlier, this budget comes mostly from revenues generated by guests of the Conservancy and from outside donations.Abercrombie and Kent will charge up to $3,285 per person for an East African Safari.The package includes accommodations at a resort lodge, transportation by car, and full amenities while on the safari.

Making a profit is the number one goal of Abercrombie and Kent.They make money by offering extravagant tour packages that offer anything for the world traveler, for a price.They put a lot of money into the facilities they build and maintain for their guest.They offer transportation to exotic lands were a tourist can travel on trains, planes, luxury sport utility vehicles, and large boats.Their guests can elect to stay in modest hotels or luxury suites. (http// They have a high class organization with the high class demands of westerners.

The Abercrombie and Kent approach does not have the lowest impact possible.To truly be low impact a tour must be conducted in an existing lodge because the erection of new buildings uses many resources from the already depleted environment.The cars the tourists take are usually very inefficient and highly pollutant vehicles that require maintained roads.A truly low impact tour has the tourists should living on the land, in tents, and walking to the animals they wish to see.However, the lower impact alternative would be harder to sell to the consumers.Abercrombie and Kent sacrifice a little impact for a larger opportunity to educate.

An advantage of the Abercrombie and Kent approach is their ability to raise awareness and practice preserving the environment with their guests.Abercrombie advertises, "expert tour guides" and "small groups, 12-24".They teach each of their ecotourists an in-depth lesson on what kind of land and animals are in danger and what needs to be done to protect them.Their guests get to experience detriments to wildlife and the benefits of conservation.Ecotourists go on an Abercrombie safari to see what a zebra, rhino, or an elephant look like in the wild but they also are taught a lesson on what needs t be done.Abercrombie and Kent have been recognized for their efforts to educate their clients on the plight of the environment.On their web page they mention their recognition, "A&K's efforts toward preserving and protecting the environment recently earned it the ASTA/Smithsonian Magazine Environmental Award, and honors in the Conde Nast Traveler Ecotourism Award." (]) This shows that the approach of Abercrombie and Kent is better than most companies.Abercrombie may come up short in some areas of the ideal ecotourism company but they are leaders in their industry niche.

So which ecotourism approach is better; conserving the land and animals through active measures, or visiting endangered and exotic lands and educating tourist of the dangers the environment faces?Both have their advantages: raising awareness, putting money into the environment, raising the value of a live animal, and giving local governments and industry a reason to be ecologically minded.Lewa excels at working with the government and local communities and putting money into the environment.Abercrombie and Kent are masters at raising awareness, practicing low impact tourism, all while making money.While there is lack of a measurement tool to decide which method is better in the long run, one can see that the active method used by Lewa has immediate results while the benefits of Abercrombie and Kent's methods will not be realized until the future.


Chapter 2: Bibliography


Abercrombie & Kent Homepage,, 1999.

Ecotourism Explorer,, 1999.

Ecotourism Guidlines For Nature Tour Operators,.The Ecotourism

Society: North Bennington,Vt, 1993


Lewa Wildlife Conservancy Homepage,


Nyaga, John., Ecotourism Taking Root in KeUa, Agence France-Presse,



Ecotourism in Costa Rica: A Silver Bullet of Sustainability

By Analiza Quiroz & Kevin Wegener


"Take nothing but photographs.. Leave nothing but footprints."


Ecotourism is a new conservation movement based in the tourist industry that has been described as "responsible travel which conserves the natural environment and sustains the well-being of local people" (Jones 1992).With large-scale, capital intensive resorts often built with foreign money, the "conventional" model of tourism has had a negative legacy in less developed countries.Ecotourism is analogous to a silver bullet of sustainability.When misused, it has hurt many livelihoods in the Third World.But when used properly, it has amazed many environmentalists and conservationists with its potential power.Currently, there are concerted efforts to motivate the international tourist industry toward the type of sustainable practices embodied in the ideology of ecotourism.

Ecotourism is conceptually rich and well intentioned, but in terms of it being a practical model of development, it is still in its infancy."Presently the term [ecotourism] is used as a catchall applied indiscriminately to almost anything linking tourism and nature" (Scace 1993).Tour operators and government agencies throughout the world are using terms such as "ecotourism" to attract a growing population of travelers who are concerned with the environment.Nowhere is this more true than in Costa Rica, a country that has become a popular international tourist destination through its early identification with the ecotourism movement.Costa Rica holds a truly unique position among the world's tropical nations with regard to conservation. this small country simultaneously is among the nations facing severe environmental threats and the nation that is perhaps most active in conservation efforts.While Costa Rica remains a leader in environmentalism, such crass exploitation of the ecotourism label has led many European visitors to refer to Costa Rica as "Eco Disney."


Costa Rica


Touted as the vanguard of the conservation movement, Costa Rica has been looked upon as "a model country in the development of ecotourism" (Budowski 1990).In fact, Costa Rica won international acclaim one fifth of the national territory was dedicated to parks and more than half of all United States public and private funding was received for international conservation.

The strength of the [reserve] system is in the representation of the country's key physiographic regions: Almost all of the natural existing habitats or natural communities such as deciduous forests, mangrove swamps, rain forests, marshes, paramos, cloud forests, Raphia swamps, oak forests, coral reefs, riparian forests, and swamp forests are conserved. (Fennel, Eagles 1990)

The attraction of Costa Rica for tourists is heightened by its political stability, relative economic wealth, and the rich and vibrant ecological system.Even more impressive is the country's flora and fauna: there are 850 recorded species of birds, 200 recorded species of mammals, 150 species of amphibians, and 9000 species of vascular plants making up an estimated total of five percent of the world's species (Hill 1990).Furthermore, Costa Rica is considered to be the bridge between North and South America; species migrating between the two have produced a spectacularly diverse wildlife.Realizing that conservation is not preservation, Costa Rica recognized tourism as the economic component of conservation in order to ensure the health of the reserved lands.

Tourism in Costa Rica is the country's second largest money earner of foreign exchange after bananas.According to the Economic Intelligence Unit, tourism has been growing rapidly from $140 million in 1986, $175 million in 1988, $281 million in 1989 and $421 million in 1992 ( The environmental tourism business has likewise skyrocketed.Based on the U.S. Travel and Data Center's National Travel Survey, more than 85 percent of travelers are likely to support or patronize travel companies that claim to help preserve the environment (Budowski 1990).Unfortunately, many travelers who take advantage of irresistible

package prices are oblivious to the sordid history behind the construction of such posh, all inclusive resorts (Wheeler, Blake, Becher 1991).

Having a concern for the environment does not ensure that taking an "ecotour" will help preserve the environment.It is often the case that neither tourists nor tour operators are aware of how tourism can be a force for ecological conservation.In fact, many tour operators use ecotourism to promote and attract travelers to trips that do not support conservation or local economies.Wheeler (1992) takes a critical look at this "conventional" form of tourism when he writes that it wrongly enables "the traveler to enjoy the holiday experience they want with a clear conscience."

Costa Rica is one of many countries strapped with large debts that pursues the "conventional" model of mass tourism (Hill 1990).Conventional tourism strives for large volume and rakes in profits that surpass the alternative model of ecotourism.Ecotourism's objectives limit tourist populations to minimize impact.However, this distinction runs solely along lines of GDP and ignores the uncalculated costs of conventional tourism or the benefits of ecotourism.Although it has one of the highest percentages of conserved land, Costa Rica also has more deforested land than any other Latin American nation (Blake, Becher 1991).


Ecotourism vs Conventional Tourism


The fostering of ecotourism is suggested by indigenous people in developing nations, by the nations themselves, and by international conservation organizations as one of the best methods to preserve natural resources and biodiversity almost anywhere that they are threatened.But does ecotourism always help local economies and significantly preserve visited habitats and wildlife?As with any popular program that undergoes rapid growth, there are problems.Costa Rica is now facing the tension between capitalism and income generation and culture and environment protection.Many people who monitor tourism- researchers and government officials- believe that in the rush to make money from ecotourism, benefits are often overstated and problems ignored.Indeed, the government is at a crossroad on how to pursue development.Costa Rica's tourism board, the ICT, has been creating policy for tourism development in the last decade, attempting to simultaneously develop two types of models: small-scale ecotourism and a larger-scale conventional model.However, many criticize that developing both types of models concurrently is not only impossible but dangerous for the industry.

There are several cases where ecotourist development has contributed to such problems.The government-approved Papagayo project on the northwestern coast of Costa Rica was responsible for massive deforestation.Ironically, this replica of an "authentic" Caribbean village also boasts several golf courses and 40,000 rooms.The size is substantial when one considers that there only 12,000 hotel rooms in the entire country.

In this case, nominally "green" tourism can cause similar problems to the type of it conventional" tourism to which it is supposed to be an alternative.Such problems include substantial leakage of receipts back to industrialized countries, marginal employment opportunities for local people, negative social change, and environmental degradation.


Profit Leakage


Many private companies purporting to be "ecotour" operators are "eco-" in name only; they are interested solely in profits, and are not concerned about local economies or the wild areas into which they take tourists.There is growing concern about monetary "leakage" despite attempts to keep most of the ecotourist revenues in local destination economies.With hotel, airline, and tour industries increasingly dominated by transnational corporations, much of the money earned in host countries leaks back to developed nations.A study revealed that for every dollar spent on tourism $0.40 went to buy imports for tourist demands, another $0.40 went to private hotels and other businesses and $0.20 went to host governments in the form of taxes (Lea 1988).Relatively little is actually spent on conservation.Large transnational corporations have an advantage over smaller tourist enterprises because they can utilize economies of scale and get better deals for each aspect of the vacation.In this scenario, transnationals create tour "packages" that consist of flights, hotel accommodations, meals and entertainment with little opportunity for money to enter local host communities (Green 1982).




One of the argued advantages for tourism as a model of development is the creation of jobs (Papagayo is supposed to provide 2000) for nations that are strapped with high rates of unemployment.It is often the case that policy makers gauge the successes of tourist development through the narrow lens of GNP and employment rates.Black and white statistics measure money generated and jobs created but ignore the marginal employment of the local population.Moreover, serious problems face Costa Rica in choosing "the kind of tourist development that regards local people merely as a pool of potential maids, waiters, gardeners, laundresses and nothing more" (Blake 1991).Oftentimes these low-paying service jobs actually replace more sustainable jobs such as farming, fishing, or traditional arts.Indeed, ecotourism is an unstable source of local employment and economic well-being.Tour bookings are heavily dependent on seasonal trends, on the weather, on a country's political situation, and on worldwide currency fluctuations.Yet, even the low economic incentives are initially enough to recruit local people into the travel industry.In the process of designing a strategy for tourism development, governments may find seasonable stability and more jobs at first-rate hotels appealing but a closer look reveals the underlying societal costs.


Social Impacts


Although the prevailing emphasis on wilderness protection (i.e., parks, forest preservation, and wildlife conservation) and ecotourism is applauded by many conventional northern environmentalists, this approach is biased.It mainly serves the interests of privileged upper-middle-class people, primarily scientists and tourists from the north.The total extent of protected area (i.e., 27% of the land) is perhaps excessive or at least questionable, in view of the landlessness and poverty affecting many rural people.Although inequality of land ownership is not as extreme as in the other Central American countries, the problem is nonetheless apparent: 37% of landholders are small farmers who own just1% of all farmland whereas the top1% of landholders own more than25% of the farmland (Seligson 1994).Furthermore, only 22% of economically active peasants are landholders, whereas thousands of rural people are landless agricultural workers (Seligson 1994).When so many people lack access to land, preservation of large areas as parks is incongruous.The creation of parks or reserves by private wealthy individuals, such as Janzen's acquisition of 50,000 hectares in northern Costa Rica, is particularly controversial.The appropriation of a large area of land by privileged North Americans, even though well-intentioned, perpetuates inequitable patterns of development.This not only conflicts with the interests of the land-hungry poor, but also imposes northern ideas and interests.

Studies have found that many Costa Ricans are not interested in wildlife, parks, and ecotourism, largely because they are poor and do not have access, desires, or financial capacities to enjoy such activities.Many rural people logically are critical of or opposed to parks, particularly those who lack resources.For example, a study in the region of Puriscal found that 65% of 120 small farmers interviewed expressed aversion toward the creation of reserves and parks, even though most were concerned about soil erosion and deforestation and practices agroforestry (Thrupp 1989).They see parks and reserves as inaccessible or inappropriate for their purposes, and when parks are located near farmland, they constitute sources of wild animals and pests that disrupt farmersí crops and farm animals.In a study of rural peoples near Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge near the Panama border, Dorothy Anger found similar opposition to the conservationists' refuge projects funded by the World Wildlife Fund.Opposition was largely because the local people "see the conservationists, in their lifestyles and ideologies, as having less in common with them than the loggers and developers who may be their neighbors" (Anger 1989).

The "tourist enclave" has been described as "a self contained resort area totally severed from native society" (Sachs 1993).Tourists in such enclaves gain little sense of the host country, as their only relationships are with service personnel whose job is to pamper and amuse them.Cultures are often forced to adapt their traditions for the sake of providing tourists with the cultural experiences they come to see.Western travel brochures further stereotype cultures and bolster ignorance.Problems of false advertising come from many sectors of the industry.In Costa Rica, tourist sites sport slogans such as: "Nature at its Best", "Just Natural Sense", and "Eco Paradise." This is ironic when common business practices are uncovered.For example, the German owner of the Las Palmas "ecoadventure" bulldozed the beach and forest in front of the hotel to build a canal way for easy access to the ocean.

Most importantly, what effect will the influx of a large numbers of "foreigners" have on these communities that in the past have had relatively little interaction with the outside world?In short, how much of their culture will be lost, and what will be the overall impact to community life.As the globalization process continues, all communities will be enlightened to new cultures and ethnicities.Thus the goal should be to preserve the characteristics that make each culture unique.


Environmental Impacts


The foremost cause for environmental concern is deforestation.Most forest cutting and burning is not to obtain timber but to clear land for cattle pastures, crop fanning, and the building of hotels and airports.The entire country was once forested, but now most of it has been cleared, much of it recently.Presently, Costa Rica has one of the highest rates of deforestation in Central America and, in fact, in the world.According to the World Resources Institute, Costa Rica ranked fourth among the world's nations in rate of deforestation, with 3.9% of its forested area being cut each year ( Particularly hard-hit has been the tropical dry forest habitat that occupied Costa Rica's northwest Pacific lowlands.Unfortunately, these dry forests lands were easily accessible and able to support several types of agriculture; by now, less than 1% remains of the original dry forests of Central America.

Permanent restructuring of the environment is caused by the building of hotels and airports on wildlife habitat and the air and water pollution that follows.Hotels have often been built with little thought given to waste planning.Costa Rica's Puerto Viejo de Talamanca has seen drastic population growth in the last five years due to tourism.Since the town has no sewage system, many simply pump their sewage directly into the ocean, a practice that has caused health problems for local children.Urgent human environmental problems, such as water contamination, harmful sanitation conditions, pesticide poisoning, and urban overcrowding are given relatively little attention in environmental policy.Here, it is important to recognize that human degradation problems (such as poisonings and contamination) are mainly borne not by tourists but by the poor.

Popularity as an ecotourism site may inevitably lead to its failing.As ecotourism expands dramatically, sites that are over-used and under-managed will be damaged.Trails in forests gradually enlarge and deepen, erosion occurs, crowds of people are incompatible with natural animal behavior.Also, ecotourism's success harms itself in another way: when any area becomes too popular, many travelers wanting to experience truly wild areas and quiet solitude no longer want to go there; that is, with increasing popularity, there is an inexorable deterioration of the experience.

Another obstacle to tourism is the management of Costa Rica's national park system.According to a study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank, one serious threat is the combination of increasing numbers of visitors, and the park service's inability to manage them.While over half a million visit the country's national park system, visitors pay the same $2 fee as locals, a sum barely adequate to pay park staff let alone maintain quality.Although the Costa Rican park staff are generally praised for their level of training and esprit de corps, none are specifically trained in visitor management, and few have the time to spend assisting visitors, directing them onto appropriate trails, and explaining or enforcing rules and conduct.Granted, most of the parks do have trail systems, but few if any are designed to concentrate visitors in the less fragile scenic areas, leaving sensitive ecosystems undisturbed (Not-ns 1994).

Finally, while Costa Rica has thousands of pages of written laws and regulations that concern resources and the environment, most of the laws are weak and unenforced.Environmental law itself is not formally recognized and established in the Costa Rican legal system, and environmental lawyers are very rare.Even when laws are violated and the violators are discovered, the cases are rarely heard in court, and sanctions are lax.For example, in cases of violations of pollution laws, the guilty parties are merely warned or pay a small fine.Furthermore, the laws are often contradicted by long-standing development laws and economic incentives of the government.Despite efforts to improve the effectiveness of the laws, the constraints persist.The government is overloaded with numerous judicial issues in other areas, and legal priorities are "controlled primarily by political forces... Conservation-type laws seem to be ignored by government officials" (Hartshorn 1992).Yet again, the socioeconomic implications of environmental destruction are given too little attention, and the majority of Costa Rica's rural people bear the burden.


Government Responses


Loss of the world's rainforests and the plant and animal species they contain - their biodiversity - is occurring at an alarming rate.People and governments are beginning to realize the scope of the problem and to take action.But the problems are long-established and severe, the possible solutions new, tentative, and difficult to introduce and enforce.It must be asserted that successful projects do exist, but these models are not necessarily transferable.As one conservation researcher explained,

It is difficult enough to change agricultural practices and implement conservation programs in the USA, a relatively rich, educated, technologically-advanced, democratic country; imagine how much more difficult it must be for environmentalists in smaller, poorer countries to try to change long-standing agricultural and forestry policies, countries in which business concerns usually hold sway. ( 198/1198cr.html)

Wheeler (1992) writes about significant barriers that stand "between the appealing theoretical notions of good tourism and the practical realities of its implementation." By most criteria, Costa Rica has an admirable environmental record.By pursuing a number of conservation policies, by establishing and protecting parks, and by promoting ecotourism the country is doing much to preserve its environmental heritage.Costa Rica has a long history of interest in biodiversity conservation, having enacted strict wildlife trade laws in 1970 and, in 1975, being the first Central American signer of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).There are also non-profit organizations such as the Ecotourism Society which provide readers with the basic elements of successful ecotourism projects and explore their application in the context of real world examples.However, many governments are ambiguous in their attempts to implement these strategies and transform sustainable ecotourism into a reality.

The IC's approval of the Papagayo project reflects the ambiguity of their proposed objectives to guide tourism development.Their 1993 report states, "The product 'Sun and Beaches' was not included [in ICT objectives] since it is not competitive in the referred market... The principal attraction that Costa Rica has to offer and should develop is that which is based in protected areas" (ICT 1993).However, in reality, the foundation of the Papagayo project has always been to attract tourists- at any cost.

Critics assert that the Situr project is using the image of Costa Rican natural beauty as a marketing scheme.Currently, the Costa Rican Defense of Habitats is suing Situr to stop the project.Additionally, the Center for Environmental Studies is charging that project profits contribute to the service of environmental aggression with tremendous violations against Cost Rican laws."What we are fighting against is not Papagayo only, but this model of tourism development" (de Kadt, 1989).Beyond the actual environmental and constitutional problems, the image of Costa Rica as a country committed to small-scale nature-based tourist development is tarnished by such projects as Papagayo, Situr, and Monteverde.




As a private organization linked with national research facility, Monteverde (or "Green Mountain") enjoys an internationally acclaimed reputation and the capacity to fund itself.Monteverde has been a model for conservationists from Colombia, Honduras and Peru who see the autonomous structure of Monteverde as a financially solvent means of protecting rainforest.Contributions and grants- not admission fees- finance land acquisition or improvements to the visitor's center.Moreover, the preserve has grown from its original 4,000 acres to 50,000 acres in size (Jacobson and Robles 1992).

Monteverde is also the home of today's hot ecotour of "canopy touring." It started out as a way of studying the ecology at the highest level, or "canopy", of the rain forest, but has evolved into a thriving business with over 600 tours given each year.Darren Rennick, a native of Vancouver, Canada, started The Original Canopy Tour after scouring Costa Rica and finding the perfect location in Monteverde.The Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve is one of the last areas of first growth cloud forest left in the Americas.This ecotype once covered vast tracts of Central America, but unrestrained clearing has reduced it to just 5% of its original size.

Rennick boasts, "Our main objective is to provide tourists a unique activity and ecological experience while, at the same time, helping to aid in the preservation of the worlds endangered rain forests through direct financial support to conservation, education and reforestation efforts" ( He, along with other tour guides, educate visitors about the local flora and fauna, ecology, and history, with asides on Central American environmentalism ranging from efforts (or the lack thereof) by the Canadian International Development Agency to those of Green Peace.In addition, a portion of the seasonal operating revenues are diverted into local ecological initiatives.Rennick also points out that he personally hand-constructed all of the landing platforms out of deadfall wood he selected from the surrounding jungle.He refuses to cut down living trees to build an ecological business despite the added expense this incurs.


Increasingly, though, Monteverde is losing its forest cover, and the conservationists are becoming teachers and sympathizers with the local populace instead of trying to maintain their green island.Canopy tours, despite being educational, still require cables and risk damage to one of the last cloud forests in the Americas.

In addition, the number of tourists has skyrocketed, and Monteverde's increasing popularity has also created new problems.The preserve's director, William Aspinall recollected a more primitive time,

If you ever came to Monteverde over ten years ago, the trails were all leaf-covered, and it was a very gratifying experience.With the increment of tourism, the animals and birds avoid the trails, so you defeat what you're trying to do.We don't want


Monteverde to become a tourist attraction.

Yet as more tourists arrive, entrepreneurs and hotels have blossomed to cater to their needs.Speculation of Holiday Inns, golf courses, finer restaurants and a local airport haunt the native population.Monteverde, like Papagayo, is a tourist attraction, and the culture gap has forever changed the community.


Successful Ecotourism


It must be noted that there are nature lodges in Costa Rica deserving of the ecotourism label, promoting unique natural resources and attractions in and of themselves.Specific sites include Rara Avis, Albergue Savegre, Cabinas Chimuri, Marenco, and Tiskita. Amos Bien, on visiting Costa Rica years ago, was alarmed at the rate of disappearance of rainforests outside of the national parks and other reserves.The result of much thought, time and energy was Rara Avis (or "Rare Bird"), a forested property on the edge of the extensive Braulio Carrillo National Park dedicated to testing economic projects which avoid local practices of destroying forests.Unlike other biologists who were concerned solely with the understanding of life within that reserve, Bien stepped outside the borders in order to understand why peasants were deforesting the neighboring land.Bien foresees Rara Avis not only as a model of ecotourism but as a new means of forest appreciation.He believes that if the people of Los Horquetes can see that the forest adds to the economic well-being of the community via ecotourism and a specialty plant and animal trade, then the impression of the forest as an obstacle to development may gradually be erased.The exportation of forest products-- whether plants or seeds-- are visible clues to the economic value of the forest.Bien told a story of a neighbor, who was shocked at the value of exotic plants:

When I pointed out that an ornamental palm--an endangered species thought to be extinct-- had a market value of $100, fie started raising them in his house and on his last piece of forest that hadn't been converted for cattle.He said, "I'm awfully glad you told me because we were going through with machetes and cutting them down as weeds.



Bien believes that acknowledging the economic value of the forests and the needs of the local populace must also be recognized by conservationists.His thesis is: "If you want to prevent forests from being cut down outside of the national parks, you have to make it economically useful."

The second site, Albergue Savegre is a family farm in the high Talamanca Mountains south of San Jose.It has become a center of research on the quetzal bird of the cloud forests.By nurturing the small wild avocados that provide food to the species, the Chacon family's success in helping the quetzats has led other landowners to follow suit.Thanks to them, the quetzal population of the Savegre Valley is even more abundant.

Another site, the Cabinas Chimuri is near the Caribbean beach community of Puerto Viejo.Accommodated in simple thatch huts, visitors experience the lifestyle of the Bn'bii and Cabecar Indian tribes.Additionally, Cabinas Chimuri offers carefully managed hiking trips to learn the forest lore and visit Indian homes deep in the reserve.

As the fourth site, Marenco protects 300 hectares of primary forest on the northern border of Corcovado National Park.Offering its own system of private rain forest trails, Marenco is owned by the Mirandas, a Costa Rican family that pioneered the idea of the private biological reserve combining tourism, education, and research.Groups of Costa Rican high school students are also invited to Marenco for their first glimpse of the true rain forest.

Lastly, on the mainland just south of the tip of the Osa, Tiskita Lodge combines ecotourism with experimental fruit farming.The land has been reforested with fruit trees from all over the world, reaping products that far surpass traditional monoculture farming practices.Tiskita also contributes a portion of its profits to the support of local schools (Chant, 1992).

Each of these lodges represents a different region and a different concept, yet they all receive high marks in the three essential criteria of ecotourism: environment, community, and education.With respect to the environment, projects minimize the impact of their own facilities and take a proactive role in protecting the surrounding natural environment.With respect to the community, they are responsible members of their local communities, providing opportunities for employment and advancement and serving as a model for other projects.With respect to education, they offer a quality training experience.Some tour companies allow part of their profits to subsidize locals participation as tourists by training guides to share their environmental education and knowledge within their communities.At its best, this goes beyond appreciating birds and trees to inspiring visitors to preserve the environment, the underlying foundation of ecotourism.


Evaluating Ecotours


When evaluating an ecotour, visitors as well as policy makers must question low impact natural resource use, local participation, and long-term costs.Does the project drain the local infrastructure- water, electricity, waste facilities- depriving the local community?Do they avoid pollution problems or minimize environmental impacts on fragile ecosystems?Do they monitor the group to assure all participants in your tour respect and follow low-impact guidelines?Will the tour promote and encourage the preservation of natural values among local people?What is the profit percentage actually directed to local community development?Are locals really in charge of the project or is it controlled by outside interests or good-intentioned environmentalists?Are locals given opportunities as planners and managers?Are the tours designed to ensure direct community support that boost the local economy?Will travelers stay in locally-owned accommodations, eat in locally-owned restaurants, use local guides?Are there opportunities for local ecotourists participation?Will the local population be able to participate as ecotourists and better appreciate the area?


Future Pursuits


Costa Rica's policy makers see tourism as a key factor in their national development plans.Carlos Munoz, president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Tourism, feels that the country needs a strategy that will increase the in-flux of tourists while protecting its natural resources (Hill 1990).He concludes that Costa Rica is facing a developmental paradox.Because of a tremendous foreign debt, the country needs to capitalize on the potential for tourism to bring in big money.However, the constraints of opting for alternative ecotourism, with its relatively low impacts on natural, social, and cultural resources mean that the country will lose millions of dollars a year in income.The country cannot afford to take this route exclusively; losing such revenue will affect not only its balance of trade but also employment rates and support for regional development.

Thus, ecotourism is not a miracle cure-all for conservation; these days it is understood to be a double-edged sword.Clearly, large numbers of people visiting sites cannot help but have adverse impacts on those sites.But as long as operators of the facilities are aware of negative impacts, careful management practices can reduce damage.Leakage of ecotourist revenue away from the habitats the money was meant to conserve is difficult to control, but some proportion of the money does go for what it is intended and, with increased awareness of the problem, perhaps that proportion can be made to grow.Environmentally-sensitive travelers can also take steps to ensure that their trips help rather than hurt visited sites.

Overall, the image of Costa Rica as an environmentally and socially progressive nation is somewhat illusive.It seems that Costa Rica has a long way to go to assert itself as a leader in the development of ecotourism.To be successful, ecotourism must promote sustainable development by establishing a durable productive base that allows local inhabitants and ecotourist service providers to enjoy rising standards of living.Ecotourism projects must go beyond prevailing notions of "ecologically sound tourism" to encompass the social dimensions of productive organization and environmental conservation.Appeals for wildlife conservation are not likely to interest poor people as long as their stomachs are empty and their land eroding.Yet the rural poor also deeply understand the value of resources seen from their own perspective.Their view and plights must be given priority to build sustainable development.Political leaders cannot begin to resolve resources problems by closing their eyes to these issues.Unless ecotourism actively incorporates the local society into service planning and provision and includes programs to meet the fundamental needs for income and employment for all locals, the special qualities of the site and its flora and fauna will be irreparably damaged.

Costa Rica must also directly confront underlying political and economic, and structural problems.Approaches and institutions must recognize that these problems are rooted in processes of capitalist economic development, social structure inequities, and the export-dependent growth pattern that is demanded by international banks and development agencies and by elite decision makers.The country's popular reputation as stable and socioeconomically thriving is becoming a facade.In fact, Costa Rica has an unstable basis: heavy debt, rampant inflation, domination by U.S. interests, and economic instability which aggravate the deteriorating resource conditions.Generally, the main underlying causes are tied to driving economic interests, to exploiting resources for short-term gain, and to the inequities in the distribution and ownership of resources (Hartshorn 1992).In effect, projects can not merely be "bandage" responses to problems or reactions to emergencies or dwell on writing reports and creating bureaucracies.Rather, projects need to act as a cohesive unit for the rational utilization of resources and to effectively resolve and prevent problems.


Ecotourism at a Regional Level


Pursuing sustainable ecotourism reveals significant obstacles not only for Costa Rica but for the Third World as a whole.The obstacles are an integral part of the world system polarized between the rich and poor.A small number of nations dominate the global power structure, guiding production and determining welfare levels.The remaining nations- including Costa Rica- compete among themselves to offer lucrative conditions that will entice the corporate and financial powers to locate within their boundaries (Eber 1992).Similarly, regions and communities within nations engage in self-destructive forms of bargaining- compromising the welfare of their workers and the building of their own infrastructure- in an attempt to outbid each other for the fruits of global growth.The powerful economic groups that shape the world economy (transnational corporations and financial institutions, and influential local powers) position the Third World to support the existing structure of inequality and to engage in productive employment; and, for those lucky enough to enjoy high enough incomes, to become customers.

While recent developments in Costa Rica alone are promising, there have also been great strides made in a regional effort to attack the problems associated with deforestation.One multinational effort, the Paseo Pantera (Path of the Panther) is the most notable.The Paseo Pantera is a "five year, $4 million project dedicated to preserving the blodiversity and enhancing wild lands management in Central America." The Paseo Pantera region is a 1,500-mile-long greenbelt stretching the length of Central America.The signatories to this agreement are the seven Central American countries- Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.In signing this agreement all the countries agreed to cooperate in an effort with the Wildlife Conservation International (a division of the New York Zoological Society) and the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, to create a development program that works with conservation strategies to achieve sustainable development for all the members.In short, Paseo Pantera has tried to persuade the countries of Central America to stop looking at national borders when it comes to questions about the environment, and thus, try to envision the region as a whole when making decisions.Moreover, the "Paseo Pantera proffers ecotourism as Central America's salvation, a form of sustainable development that will employ locals, introduce hard currency, and put a monetary value on an intact ecosystem."


The concern for biodiversity, in its broadest sense, encompasses not only threatened flora and fauna, but also the survi-v ability of communities who struggle against powerful external forces to defend their individuality, their rights, and their ability to survive.Only when members of the Third World unite to rebuild a foundation free from the evils of the industrialized powerhouses and inequality will the ideals of sustainable development and ecotourism become an awesome silver bullet of reality.


Chapter 3: Bibliography



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Sachs, J. (1993) "The Display of Culture: A Comparative Study of Eastern and Western Tourist Brochures," paper for GEOG 4173 at C.U. Boulder, professor Erikson.


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Thrupp.L. (1989) "The Political Ecology of Pesticide Use in Developing Countries: Dilemmas in Costa Rica," Ph.D. dissertation, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, England.

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