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The Impacts Of Ecotourism In Costa Rica

5106 words - 20 pages

IntroductionOriginally conceived in the 1960?s in response to declining environmental and economic conditions throughout the Developing World, ecotourism is described as tourism that has a low-impact on the environment, contributes to the local economy, engenders cross-cultural exchange, and fosters environmental education. Since its conception, many governments within the Developing World have embraced and encouraged ecotourism as a means of attracting foreign investment and exchange. Costa Rica, with its rich biodiversity and extensive ecosystem, is inarguably one of the leaders in this type of tourism, which is rapidly becoming the largest sector of that country?s tourism industry.To be sure, the promotion of ecotourism in Costa Rica has led to several desirable outcomes. For example, the continued expansion of ecotourism has created opportunities for income generation and employment, at both the national and local levels. Additionally, ecotourism has provided greater incentives for natural resource conservation in the form of state-protected areas and private lands. As a result, natural resource conservation is on the rise. With nearly ½ million acres of land designated as protected areas, tourism to that country has surged, with scientific and nature tourists from around the world converging on this naturally endowed, tourist?s paradise. Finally, heightened emphasis has been placed on environmental education.While the Costa Rican government has successfully stimulated economic growth and environmental preservation by marketing the country?s ecotourism destinations, recent studies suggest that it has not invested adequate attention or resources for the management of the natural assets which attract tourists or in the infrastructure required to support ecotourism. As a result, fragile sites of ecological or cultural significance have been exposed to the threat of degradation by unregulated tourism development and over-visitation. In short, while the tourist explosion has attracted world attention and new funds to Costa Rica, it has also put a strain on the country?s environment and population.Clearly ecotourism is a multi-dimensional, complex practice that has resulted in tradeoffs, in costs and benefits for Costa Rica. All the same, it is a practice that is being promoted with increasing fervor by the Costa Rican government and the tourism industry. But how long can this practice sustain itself? Is ecotourism sustainable?The purpose of this paper is to explore these questions, to go ?below the surface? and take a deeper look at ecotourism in Costa Rica, thereby facilitating a clearer understanding of the complexity of this phenomenon. Specifically, this paper examines ecotourism?s impact on the economy and environment of the country. For that purpose, tourism, environmental, and economic transitions are critically researched, with an emphasis on how these transitions interrelate. Findings and conclusions around the benefits and...

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