Ecotourism and Sustainable Development in Costa Rica
Buchsbaum, Bernardo Duha
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The purpose of this paper is to provide a synopsis of the current issues facing ecotourism in Costa Rica; critically examine the impacts and challenges of ecotourism; analyze the potential of ecotourism as a strategy for sustainable development; look at ways in which ecotourism and sustainable development can be evaluated; and suggest ways to improve current ecotourism practices and policies for Costa Rica. What are the impacts and challenges of ecotourism? What are the possible benefits that ecotourism can bring? Is ecotourism in Costa Rica sustainable? Based on the guiding principles of ecotourism, a legitimate argument can be made that ecotourism in Costa Rica has not produced desired outcomes and is not sustainable. However, an equally strong argument can be made that although ecotourism may not currently be sustainable, it has yet to fully mature, and has shown signs that it can achieve a balance between development and conservation goals.. Ecotourism has more promise for achieving sustainability than alternative types of land use such as agriculture, cattle grazing, logging, or mass tourism. Whether or not ecotourism in Costa Rica will prove to be sustainable in the long-term remains to be seen. In order to increase the likelihood that ecotourism achieves goals of sustainable development in Costa Rica, all of the key actors must to begin to take more proactive measures in order to ensure that ecotourism is carefully planned and implemented. Ecotourism must account for social, economic and environmental implications, in order to succeed. A much more balanced and integrated approach, founded on the guiding principles of sustainable development, is essential to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative impacts of ecotourism in Costa Rica.