Home Institution

Wellesley College

Publication Date

Fall 2005

Program Name

Panama: Development and Conservation


Tourism of the coral reefs in Bocas del Toro is an important economic activity but also potentially harmful to the environment, creating an ecologically and economically unsustainable situation and doubts that the region engages in “ecotourism.” Coral reef tourism was analyzed with a specific emphasis on tours, tour guides, tourist motivations, tourist education and conservation-related activities. Research methods included participant observation in the tourism world in Bocas, interviews with guides, tourists and community members, and a tourist survey. Though local popular opinion disagrees, data collected shows tourism in Bocas does not emphasize reefs or reef conservation, a potentially catastrophic situation for both the reefs and the local economy. The Bocas del Toro region is encouraged to shift tourism activities to be more in line with the methods and goals of “ecotourism.” Recommendations for increased tour guide and tourist education are given, potentially taking the form of a tour guide certification program.


Economics | Growth and Development | Natural Resource Economics


Article Location