Ecotourism: Who Benefits?
Southern Illinois University
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
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.
- Understand the complex issues that emerge when nations primarily rely on ecotourism or related industries as an economic growth strategy.
- Illustrate to students how the economics of one country directly impacts other countries.
- Develop solutions for how countries can grow economically while minimally harming the environment and inhabitants within the environment.
KeywordsEcotourism; land reform; biodiversity; scarlet macaw; Ara macao; poaching; Central American Free Trade Agreement; CAFTA; Carara Biological Reserve; Tarcoles; Costa Rica; Central America; developing world; Ticos; bioethics
Topical AreasEthics, Policy issues, Social issues, Social justice issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDilemma/Decision, Role-Play
Subject HeadingsEnvironmental Science | Ecology | Economics | Business / Management Science |