“Money is Vanity but We Need It to Survive": Tourism and Development in the Talamanca Region of Costa Rica

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Nikoi Kote-Nikoi


This research presents a description of the motivations of community development through tourism. Towards this end, qualitative interview data was collected from a purposive sample of well-informed and active residents of communities where the development of tourism is closely tied to environmental conservation. Observation and study of material culture supplement the data obtained from interviews and informal discussions to provide an analysis of the dynamics of tourism and development in the Talamanca province of Costa Rica.

This study is supported by an analytical framework that situates the motivations of destination communities for tourism development in the broader context of global neo-liberalism. There are occasions where explanation of tourism and development in Talamanca can be facilitated by understanding the power of the tourist gaze or the agency of tourists and destinations. However, it is argued that studies of tourism, conservation, and development will benefit more from a combination of these concepts.

As devolutionary patterns emerge in the ‘greenest but poorest’ region of Costa Rica, many people are frustrated by governance and development, presenting an opportunity for local, regional, and international actors to reposition their interests. This research responds to a call to better understand host community motivations in the arena of tourism development, and its main purpose is to identify and critically analyze the key elements of development via tourism in Talamanca. Additionally, findings support similar studies of tourism and conservation in other parts of the world, where destinations can be characterized as neither simple passive recipients of development nor completely active agents in this process.


Economics | Growth and Development | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy

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