IntroductionOriginally conceived in the 1960?s in response to declining environmental and economic conditions throughout the Developing World, ecotourism is described as tourism that has a low-impact on the environment, contributes to the local economy, engenders cross-cultural exchange, and fosters environmental education. Since its conception, many governments within the Developing World have embraced and encouraged ecotourism as a means of attracting foreign investment and exchange. Costa Rica, with its rich biodiversity and extensive ecosystem, is inarguably one of the leaders in this type of tourism, which is rapidly becoming the largest sector of that country?s tourism industry.
To be sure, the promotion of ecotourism in Costa Rica has led to several desirable outcomes. For example, the continued expansion of ecotourism has created opportunities for income generation and employment, at both the national and local levels. Additionally, ecotourism has provided greater incentives for natural resource conservation in the form of state-protected areas and private lands.
As a result, natural resource conservation is on the rise. With nearly ÃÂ½ million acres of land designated as protected areas, tourism to that country has surged, with scientific and nature tourists from around the world converging on this naturally endowed, tourist?s paradise. Finally, heightened emphasis has been placed on environmental education.
While the Costa Rican government has successfully stimulated economic growth and environmental preservation by marketing the country?s ecotourism destinations, recent studies suggest that it has not invested adequate attention or resources for the management of the natural assets which attract tourists or in the infrastructure required to support ecotourism. As a result, fragile sites of ecological or cultural significance have been exposed to the threat of degradation by unregulated tourism development and over-visitation. In short, while the tourist explosion has attracted world attention and new funds to Costa Rica, it has also...