Economic Effect of on Ecotourism in Costa Rica

The beautiful Central American country of Costa Rica is one the most popular destinations for ecotourism. Costa Rica offers beautiful mountains, lush rain forests and an abundance of plant and animal life; all which is heavily promoted to ecotourists. There are many advantages to ecotourism, most notably the positive economic impact it has on both funding for the environment and local economy.

  1. Costa Rica

    • Costa Rica receives over 1 million tourists a year and that number is climbing. The majority of those visitors are ecotourists. Costa Rica is a popular destination for ecotourism because over 20 percent of the country is designated as protect national parks. Costa Rica is also relatively small making the country a lot easier to see in a shorter period. Costa Rica is also fairly close to the US and is one of the safer and more prosperous countries in that region.

    Environmental Benefits

    • The environmental benefits of ecotourism are numerous for Costa Rica. The country has a strong environmental lobby that helps in conserving and growing environmentally protected areas. Costa Rica also received a $40 million dollar loan from the world bank in 1996 that was designed to be used to grow ecotourism. Ecotourism provides a sustainable and environmentally friendly way for a country to earn money. For example Costa Rica could have chosen to focus on logging their rain forests but instead they chose to protect them and use the protected forests as a revenue stream.

    Environmental Costs

    • The largest environmental cost for Costa Rica associated with ecotourism is overuse. As a result of ecotourism's popularity many of the natural wonders are showing signs of wear. For example one of the most popular tourists parks in Costa Rica receives over 1000 visitors a day and this number is increasing. The visitors litter the park with trash and are carelessly destroying plant life and animal sanctuaries. The limited resources provided to government and park officials do not fully offset the damage done by the tourists.

    Economic Benefits

    • According to the state department, ecotourism in Costa Rica brought in over 1 billion dollars in 2001 and that number is climbing. Many new complimentary businesses have opened to support the ecotourist economy; most of these businesses are owned and operated by locals. The economic benefits do not only correspond to parks and tours which are directly related to ecotourism but also other businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, transportation companies (trains, taxis, buses, airplanes), street vendors and local artists.

    Economic Costs

    • There are also material economic costs to ecotourism. Costa Rica is still classified as a developing nation and as such they lack the resources to finance an appropriate infrastructure to not only support the existing ecotourist infrastructure but also finance its expansion. The result of this is lost revenues and reliance on foreign direct investment to support what should be a national cause. There is also a gap in income for workers, many workers in ecotourism are underpaid and the majority of the profits go to the business owner who is exploiting the large low paid labor pool.

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