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PhD PROPOSAL FOR A STUDY:

UNIVERSITY OF DERBY UNITED KINGDOM

DEVELOPING A SUSTAINABLE ECOTOURISM APPROACH FOR COSTA RICA


Brian M Touray MSc. Griffith University August 9, 2001

Introduction One of the most promising recent developments in the tourism industry has been an alliance between environmentalists, resort destinations and tour packagers. This liaison, called "ecotourism," is a total marketing plan, which targets the ecology-minded tourist. Its principal objectives are to promote travel to nature preserves and parks, and to develop an environmentally sustainable alternative to mainstream resort tourism. Despite benefits to both the tourist industry and endangered biological resources, there are some problems inherent with ecotourism, specifically pertaining to implementation and execution. The success of tourism and environmentalism is contingent on finding the solutions to these problems, while maintaining the necessary natural and social resource for the program's survival in the new century.

Statement of Problem Ecotourism, as an independent concept, developed in the 1980s and has been growing since then, in Costa Rica and elsewhere (Atwood, 1). The nonprofit Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people (Wade, 4). It is assumed when these basic sustainability principles are followed, both environment and tourism can benefit. One of the most conspicuous successes in Ecotourism has occurred in Costa Rica, which once depended on coffee and bananas as primary industries, but has recently seen a shift to tourism as its bedrock business (Frank and Bowermaster, 136). In some other areas, there are signs that ecotourism itself imposes a burden on the environment. For instance, the Ecotourism Societys Megan Epler Wood points out that "timber around Nepals Himalayan trails has been stripped to heat water for tea-sipping trekkers (Arlen, 62). It will be the argument of this paper that Costa Rica can continue to develop and expand its core system of ecotourism, through the careful husbanding of natural resources and close attention to the basic principles of sound commercial tourism. Argument of Study: The Benefits of Ecotourism The ideal of sustainable ecotourism is the preservation of the natural environment and indigenous community, but the tourism business can reap the advantages of for local peoples. Countries containing

significant ecological resources are enjoying the greatest success. In Costa Rica, for example, in a dozen years, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of tourists visiting their national parks. The same trend is seen worldwide. For example, in Nepal, which has been called a Mecca for trekkers from around the world, there has also been an incredible growth rate: 130 percent in less than a decade

("Nature Tourism Revolution," 1). In addition to industry publications, journals and popular periodicals and newspapers, the study will draw on the resources of new organizations promoting ecotourism. Acknowledging the importance of protecting endangered biological resources and supplying information on how ecotourism works, the ten-year-old, nonprofit Ecotourism Societys objectives include being . . . fully dedicated to finding the resources and building the expertise to make tourism a viable tool for conservation and sustainable development (Nature Tourism Revolution, 2). The Ecotourism Society is not alone, and this proposed study will draw from a new global network of ecotourism sources. The Conde Nast Traveler argues that because the concept of ecotourism is somewhat ambiguous, many travel marketers are taking advantage of it by attaching nature tours, adventure travel, safaris and certain cruises under the general heading of ecotourism. In 1996,

an Ecotourism Fair was held at the World Financial Center of Manhattan. Attendees, in fur coats and leather wingtips, sipped exotic cocktails and glanced through literature advertising Caribbean beachfront properties. As an activity, they were to identify various faunas by This

painted cardboard cutouts hidden around the room (Frank, 135).

study proposes a different model of ecotourism desired for Costa Rica. Commercialization is not the only problem facing ecotourism in Costa Rica. Another example was described in the press when reporters The

participated in an investigation of possible fraud in ecotourism.

reporter, accompanied with sixteen fellow ecotourists, delved into the Peruvian rain forest. They contracted a local, independent company, an advertised and well-known outfitter for the area, to handle their tour. Some of the events chronicled on that trip exemplify what can go wrong when ecotourism is used as a veil to draw tourists in. The example the

party encountered, from base camp toilets being emptied directly into the Amazon River, to free roaming sloths captured and dragged in front of shooting cameras, should be a warning to Costa Rica's program developers (Arlen, 61). A much simpler approach to ensuring ecotourism's success is presented by the Ecotourism Society, which suggests that the answers lie in constant innovation to both existing programs and projected ones. Keeping the system new, changing, as demands require, will

better accommodate the average ecotourist, who, according to the Ecotourism Society, is a combination of sophistication and education. A survey done by the Society revealed that over 50 percent of tourists on ecotours had graduate degrees (Wood, 1). If innovation is the key to ecotourisms success, then it falls to education and funding to make information accessible to the various countries involved and independent ecotourism programs now in place. This tourism education and funding must also be made available for new programs and certifications. To this end, our study will argue that Costa Rica, with proper training and support, can benefit economically and environmentally from naturally sustainable ecotourism. Costa Rica Is the ideal "incubator for this program, since it already has a model? Ecotourism program and government and private agencies that are prepared to work in this context. The study will be organized in five chapters: Introduction (Statement of Problem), Review of the Literature, Methodology, Findings, and Conclusions and Recommendations.

TENTATIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arlen, Caroline. Ecotour, Hold the Eco. Report. May 29, 1995: 61-62, 63 Atwood, Cynthia. Yale University.

U.S. News and World

Press Release, April 9, 1996.

Chester, Guy. Australian Ecotourism Accreditation Off and Running. TES Membership Report, First Quarter, 1997. Frank, Peter and Jon Bowermaster. Can Ecotourism Save the Planet? Conde Nast Traveler. December 1994: 134-137. Hoffman, Mark S., ed. The World Almanac and Book of Facts. Chicago: Pharos Books, 1991. McCool, Stephen F. Linking Tourism, the Environment, and Concepts of Sustainability: Setting the Stage. United States Department of Agriculture, General Technical Report, October 1994. McElroy, J.L., and de Albuquerque, K. (1992) An Integrated Sustainable Ecotourism for Small Caribbean Islands. Ed. D. Conway. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University, Center On Global Change and World Peace. Moulin, C. L. (1980) "Plan for Ecological and Cultural Tourism Involving Participation of Local Population and Associations' in Tourism Planning and Development, eds. D.E. Hawkins et al. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, pp. 199-211. Murphy, P.E. (1985) Tourism: A Community Approach. New York: Methuen & Co. The Nature Tourism Revolution. Informational Brochure, 1996. The Ecotourism Society. Vermont.

Polson, Sheila. Going Green, Touring Light. January/February, 1998: 44-45. Wade, Betsy. Learning How to Tread Lightly. Times. June 15, 1997: Section 5, pgs. 4, 22).

E Magazine.

The New York

Wood, Megan Eplar. New Direction in the Ecotourism Industry. The Ecotourism Society Newsletter. First Quarter, 1997. 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. Yenckel, James T. What Can You Do to Treat Lightly on the Globe? Washington Post, January 8, 1995: Section E, pp. 1, 9-10) Brian M Touray MSc. Tourism Management Griffith University