Ecotourism in Latin America




Paradise: Gained or Lost?


The word ecotourism has not been around for that many years. However it is a word that has briskly become suitable for hotels and tourist attractions alike. This statement can not be more proper to say pertaining to Latin American countries, primarily Costa Rica, which has a high rate of international tourism. Ecotourism is not a word that everyone understands. It is a term that could have multiple meanings. When it comes down to it, though, there are two things an ecotourism project must include. Tourism can be considered ecotourism when it includes community participation, support conservation efforts, and is profitable and able to sustain itself.
The lack of the common definition of ecotourism results in multiple interpretations. Even if everyone concurs on the immense plan, conservation groups and tour agencies will still have different interpretations of what represents ecotourism. In Costa Rica, and pretty much everywhere in Latin America, anything that used the word "eco" thrived. One example that is most doubted, was the development of the "Eco-Rent a Car." It seemed that any establishment that used the word "Eco" would be affluent because people were concerned about the environment.
Costa Rica is situated on the Central American Isthmus and is bordered by Nicaragua to the North and Panama to the South. Its area totals 51,000 square miles, of which only 440 are water due to the extensive mountains dominating the majority of the country’s area.
Costa Rica is in the thick of a dramatic progression from a small, Central American country known for bananas and coffee into a gateway for international commerce between Latin America and the rest of the world. Costa Rica is a highly attractive country filled with beautiful mountain ranges, unruffled beaches, and friendly natives. It also offers a stable economic and political environment and first class communication and transportation networks. All of these characteristics, among others, have been fueling a movement of multi-national companies, tourists, and American retirees into Costa Rica to benefit from the many precious luxuries the country has to offer.
It can be adequately predicted that Costa Rica, specifically the San Jose, the capital city, and the coastal regions on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, have the potential of becoming places comparable to place in the United States. For businesses, places will begin to take on the same aspects of our Silicon Valley in California. The more resort-like places are beginning to feel more and more like places such as Ft. Lauderdale and St. Petersburg. That is to say, the United States’ and other countries’ computer companies, tourists, and retirees continue this trend of movement into Costa Rica.
This direction presents geographers, environmentalists, politicians, and economists with the plague of overwhelming tasks in preventing the destruction of Costa Rica’s environment, society, culture, and natural resources.
However, these are not the only issues ecotourism presents. “Since the mid-1980s, this tiny Central American country has been transformed from a staging ground for the covert U.S. war against Nicaragua and testing ground for USAIDS’s free-trade and privatization policies into a laboratory for green tourism”(Honey 131). When Costa Rica’s President, Oscar Arias Sanchez, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, he brought recognition to his small Central American country. This is the time, arguably, that ecotourism ignited its flame in Costa Rica.
According to Honey, the U.S. Adventure Travel Society named Costa Rica the “number one ecotourism destination in the world.” Costa Rica’s Gross net proceeds have risen from “117 million dollars in 1984 to 718 million dollars in 1995”(Honey 133). Facing the task of accomplishing tolerable development in Costa Rica is not distinct, however, requires educational contribution, physical efforts, and cooperation of everyone residing in the country. Although there are many issues concerning sustainable development in Costa Rica requiring a vast array of solutions, the growing tourism industry and preventing the destruction of the environment through ecotourism should be Costa Rica’s primary objective.
Ecotourism, however, is an alternative to mass tourism that is educational, conserves the environment, and benefits the local communities.


The political and economic history of Costa Rica calls the attention of many businesses and corporations exploring foreign direct investment in the region mainly because of stability. Very few Central American