Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Purcell, Trevor W.

Keywords

tourism, Central America, survey, demography, anthropology

Abstract

Ecotourism has been promoted globally as a model for sustainable development because it simultaneously benefits the environment and the residents of the given destination. However, many conservationists have questioned the long term sustainability of ecotourism as it is difficult to mitigate the impact of even low levels of tourism on a particular ecosystem. Further, social scientists including anthropologists have similarly questioned whether most residents of a particular destination actually benefit significantly from the alternative tourism economy. The Globalization Research Center in cooperation with the Monteverde Institue in the Monte Verde Zone, Costa Rica, is undertaking a longitudinal study -- dubbed the Triangulation Study -- to understand the effects that development through ecotourism has on human and natural systems.

In order to collect preliminary data, the Globalization Research Center funded the Development Survey which was designed to collect demographic data from a representative stratified random sample of household from nine communities in the Monte Verde Zone. Basic descriptive information was also collected for all of the businesses in the area that would agree to participate. The data collected showed that there is a significant difference in the extent that the nine communities in the Monte Verde Zone are involved in and perhaps benefiting from ecotourism despite the fact that their opinions about ecotourism are mostly positive. The communities located on the main road to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve have demographic statistics that are significantly different from communities that are off the main road, and all communities are significantly different from the Monteverde community.

Further, the ecotouristic businesses are located in these road proximate communities. Like the ecotourism literature predicted, the majority of the businesses are small and locally owned. Further study that carefully looks at the differences between those communities closest to the road and those furthest away is recommended. Perhaps a repetition of the Development Survey after a period of time would help elucidate changes in the Zone.

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