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The Role of Tourism in Development: The Ecotourism Opportunity


The tourism industry is one of the most significant driving forces in the world economy. By all measures, the long-term growth of the industry is guaranteed and much of that growth will continue to be in the developing countries in the southern hemisphere. In recent years there has been a clear increase in tourists looking for that "something different" as well as a growing dissatisfaction with negative impacts of conventional tourism. One of the answers to this trend has been ecotourism, concentrated primarily in developing nations. This has been a blessing and, in some ways, a curse, as millions and millions of tourists travel to Central America, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. There are many issues and challenges to face, but without a doubt, ecotourism holds some promise in empowering local people, bringing in new sources of income to areas and overall increasing the livelihoods of millions.

This paper provides an overview of the world tourism industry. It identifies issues and challenges to be aware of and focuses on an in-depth look at ecotourism. The paper concludes with a case study on the Cabécar indigenous community in Talamanca, Costa Rica, a community that is in the beginning stages of establishing an ecotourism operation as means to share their culture as well as keep it alive, in addition to diversifying their income sources and decreasing their dependency on agriculture.

The full paper is available here.