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Linda Markowitz
Sociology Department
Southern Illinois University
Ecotourism: Who Benefits? 

The main objective of this case is to have students critically examine the costs and the benefits associated with ecotourism, a form of  tourism usuallly involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism. Although ecotourism has among its goals to provide funds for ecological conservation as well as economic benefit and impowerment to local communities, it can result in the exploitation of the natural resources (and communities) it seeks to protect.  In this case study, students assess ecotourism in Costa Rica by considering the viewpoints of a displaced landowner, banana plantation worker, environmentalist, state official, U.S. trade representative, and national park employee.  Working in small groups, students evaluate the case scenario and develop a strategy to provide balance between the various stakeholders and the delicate ecosystem.  The case was developed for a study abroad course in Costa Rica but could be applied to traditional courses in sociology, international business, political science, bioethics, or public administration and policy analysis.