Endicott College

Project Description

Ecotourism and the impacts in Latin America and the Caribbean

Project Abstract

I. Introduction
Ecotourism is one of the tourism industry�s fastest growing segments, offering an alternative method of travel for the world�s population. Ecotourism has become an umbrella term for a variety of other environmentally friendly tourism practices, such as nature based travel and sustainable tourism (Edgell, 2006). While the definitions of ecotourism may vary from author to author, the World Tourism Organization and World Travel and Tourism Council have both recently proclaimed that there are certain principles that ecotourism must abide by (Donahue & Needham, 2006). The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people" (Honey, 1999, p.1).
With abundant natural resources, pleasant climate, and developing tourism industry, two prime ecotourism destinations are Latin America and the Caribbean. Some of the major participants in the ecotourism movement within these regions are Costa Rica, Jamaica, Panama and Belize. In addition, cruise ship excursions in both tropical regions have also become directly involved with the ecotourism process, given that approximately two thirds of destinations are within biodiversity hotspots (Gouvea, 2004). Lester and Weeden (2004) have �highlighted the complexity of the Caribbean as a cruise destination, with a definite tension between a paramount need to protect the natural environment, the region�s dependency upon tourism and the potentially divisive nature of intra-island competition� (as cited in Johnson, 2006, p.44).
Ecotourism has sparked many debates however, concerning its effectiveness and ability to achieve sustainability. McClaren (1998) claims the ecological damage done by tourism leads to conflicts between locals and the tourism industry for diminishing natural resources. Some principal examples of �eco-enterprises� include farming forest animals for tours such as butterflies or crocodiles, or the establishment of game ranches (Gouvea, 2004). The history of ecotourism in the Caribbean and Latin America consists of extreme damage to the environment in certain locations. Native people are also adversely affected by the development of ecotourism in their countries by experiencing an altered lifestyle and social problems (McClaren, 1998). Greenwashing, which involves tourism operators that decide to just paste an ecotourism label on their businesses, has become a growing problem as well (Honey, 2003 & Conscientious Tourist, 2005). This review of literature will discuss how ecotourism needs to be developed with adequate research and strategies, because ecological and human welfare is at stake. Furthermore, this literature review will also explain in detail the large issue that has developed with the varying perceptions that tourists, industry professionals and scientists have of ecotourism. The variety of perceptions have consequently created conflicting concepts as to what ecotourism truly is. Multiple studies featured in the literature review also discuss the future of ecotourism, which is unknown at the present. A majority of researchers believe that ecotourism has great potential to provide economic, environmental and social benefits if implemented correctly. Authors Aronsson (2000), Eagles (2002), Gouvea (2004) and Honey (1999) believe that ecotourism offers an alternative and effective way for nations to insert their economies in the global marketplace, establish sustainable development strategies, and practice environmentally sound tourism. This review of literature will describe the positive and negative impacts of ecotourism in the Caribbean and Latin America, the challenges the eco-movement faces, and the proposed solutions to overcome these challenges.

Intro-Literature Review
Project description-Literature review, survey & analysis, thesis capstone

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