Almeyda Zambrano, Angelica M.1, 2
Broadbent, Eben N. 2
Durham, William H. 1

1 Department of Anthropological Sciences, Stanford University, Building 360, Rm. 361-D Stanford, California, 94305,
U.S.A (contact:

2 Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution, Stanford University, 260 Panama Street, Stanford, California, 94305,U.S.A.

In preparation for submission to Human Ecology


The challenge to ecotourism is to deliver on its definitional promise: “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”.  Most scholars take this challenge to have three parts:  ecotourism must simultaneously (a) minimize environmental impact and thus have a small ecological “footprint,” (b) contribute to conservation either through direct efforts (e.g., on-site reforestation, habitat restoration, etc) or through financial benefits, and (c) promote local livelihoods through political empowerment and a combination of culturally-appropriate social and economic benefits to local people.


Fig. 1. Nested scales of analysis used in this study, showing methods used at each level to assess the impact of ecotourism on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.


What is the socio-economic impact of ecotourism on the local population?

  1. L.R.employees have increased income over non-tourism related neighbors,
  2. L.R.has increased access to job training,
  3. a job source for local residents,
  4. Is the primary source of income for it’s permanentemployees,
  5. L.R. workers are happier with their job and income than those not affiliated with tourism,
  6. Decreased seasonality of income source for L.R. workers over the last five years,
  7. Income from L.R. is only getting better, due to increase in guest numbers

Is ecotourism having a positive impact on environmental awareness in the peninsula?

  1. L.R. workers were more knowledgeable about environmentally related concepts,
  2. L.R. is striving to support formal primary and secondary education, as well as some community projects and community presentations on relevant topics. It has a great potential to have a positive impact on local communities and throughout the entire peninsula.
  3. Increased environmental awareness among the L.R. workers did not correlate with decreased deforestation or increased reforestation on their properties.

Has ecotourism had any noticeable impact on forest cover in the peninsula?

  1. The L.R. private nature preserve has significantly greater reforestation during the study period (1979-2000) than any other study scale on the peninsula,
  2. Communities more proximate to (eco) tourism had increased rates of reforestation,
  3. The peninsula as a whole was undergoing reforestation, likely related to shifts in economic opportunities and environmental policies in the area.