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PhD Proposal for Study: University of Derby United Kingdom The Social Impact of the Demand for Costa Rica Tourism
9/1/2001

Brian M Touray MSc Griffith University

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Introduction Much has been written in the tourism literature about the benefits of ecotourism, which is perceived as different from mass tourism in being a niche industry with minimal impact of the indigenous culture and natural setting. While most authorities agree that ecotourism can have positive

effects as alternative to conventional resort tourism, it may also have the potential to become a mass industry with

substantial impacts on the local culture and society. The proposed thesis study will examine the present and potential impact of tourism on Costa Rican society, to assess whether the ecotourism trend is indeed having minimal negative

effects on the local culture. The purpose of the study is to validate claims that ecotourism avoids most of the perils of mainstream mass tourism. The focus of the study will be on local economic development, social change and the impact of tourism as an industry, not on the character or environmental benefits of ecotourism. The study addresses the concern that ecotourism may well be one more opening for mass tourism in the LDCs (less

developed countries), stunting local economic development for the sake of esoteric consumer appetites. According to Keller (1984), most international tourists comes from the

industrialized metropolitan centers, and constantly growing tourist demand is met by creating new tourist destinations in undeveloped or developing peripheral regions like Costa Rica. In these peripheral regions, the tourism development process has often been taken over by foreign investors and developers, and therefore largely serves their interests

and needs rather than those of the local inhabitants. The study will therefore examine issues of local ownership,

social change through foreign contacts, and creation of a novel but artificial "eco-culture" that may or may not be in the best interests of the citizenry. A preliminary research question is whether ecotourism can and does with represent its a potential phenomenon and of mass

tourism,

attendant

social

economic

transformations. Matthews (1979:3) defines mass tourism as "the movement to of large by numbers means of of travelers from one this mass

country involves

another hotel

mass and

transport... above type all, of

mass Mass

accommodations, is the

selling".

tourism

major

tourism

currently being developed in the Third World, and it is widely believed to be the only type of tourism, which can bring substantial economic and social benefits to the host country.

This,

however,

does

not

alter

the

fact

that

other

types of tourists visit unspoiled tropical regions, and in increasing numbers. Costa Rica, Tobago, and several other countries, for example, now target and attract many

adventure/nature-oriented "ecotourists." Costa Rica, as a nation of small land area, limited resources and only a few million people, is clearly not prepared to offer a mass tourism based on mass consumption and unlimited growth of lodgings, travel and attractions. This pattern of

consumption is not sustainable, as guests from much larger rich countries consume, while host country suppliers of raw materials and cheap labor stay poor. In the past, economists believed that economic development could create an automatic "takeoff" effect for any developing countries, and that the dream of wealth (or at least freedom from poverty) could be real for nations like Costa Rica with tourism appeal. Despite this promise, however, few of the Caribbean or Central

American countries have realized true, indigenous economic development and rising incomes over the last quarter century. The study will be structured in standard thesis format of five chapters: Introduction, Review of the Literature, Methodology, Findings, and Conclusions and Recommendations. Specific areas for future study will be noted in the concluding section.

Tentative List of Resources Archer, E.D, and C.S. Davies (1984) "Reassessing Third World Tourism: The Case of the Barbados." The Tourist Review 39 2, p. 19-23. Britton, R.A. (1978) International Tourism and Indigenous Development Objectives: A Study with Social Reference to the West Indies. Ph. D. Thesis, University of Minnesota. Caribbean Tourism Research Centre [CTRC] (1980) Caribbean Tourism Markets: Structures and Strategies. ed. Cynthia Wilson. Christ Church, Barbados. Kotler, P.; Haider, D. H.; and Rein, I. (1991) Marketing Places: Attracting Investment, Industry and Tourism to Cities, States and Nations. New York: The Free Press. Matthews, H.G. (1978) International Tourism: A Political and Social Analysis Boston, Massachusetts: Schenkman Publishing Co. O'Meara, K. (1996) "Tourism Coalition Aims to Build on Past Marketing Successes." Travel Weekly 55 2, pp. 44-5. Todaro, M.P. (l981) Economic Development in the Third World. New York: Longman Inc. United States Agency for International Development. Win Win Approaches to Development and the Environment: Ecotourism and Biodiversity Conservation. Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination, Center for Development Information and Evaluation. July 1996.

Brian M Touray MSc. Tourism Management Griffith University, Australia