There is much research stating both the benefits and drawbacks of tourism. While I agree that developing countries are generally benefiting from tourism, my main concern is with the negative social impacts on rural communities. My experience with the ANAI (Asociacion de los Nuevos Alquemistas) sea turtle project in Gandoca, Costa Rica made me aware of the social issues that can be introduced to a society by way of well intentioned conservation projects, either locally or foreign owned. This paper focuses on exploring how the social effects of ecotourism projects affect local communities in Gandoca, Costa Rica.

A broad base of interviews with project participants, community members and project directors demonstrates contrasting viewpoints and issues within the community. The ANAI project is compared and contrasted with two other sea turtle projects in Costa Rica. This is done by looking at the economic, environmental and political effects which are often interconnected, and relating current research in the framework of political ecology and areas of conflict and community participation. This is done in an effort to create future solutions that work to enhance both the community and the environment by creating awareness for project staff, community members and volunteers.

Findings indicated that a more even distribution of management and leadership positions amongst ANAI and the community members is needed. This type of involvement would create increased ownership within the project and ultimately greater cohesion within the community. The challenge is not only to involve community members, but to also insure the continuing sustainability of development projects to create lasting benefits for the community.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Growth and Development | Nature and Society Relations