The Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development - Stanford
The Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development
Stanford University

Projects > Research Study:
The Impact of Tourism Related Development Along Costa Rica's Pacific Coast

Goal and Purpose:
This study will assess the growth, trends, and impacts of tourism and tourism-related
development and land use along Costa Rica's Pacific Coast. It will compare the increasingly dominant models of coastal and marine tourism - characterized by large resorts, "residential tourism," and cruise tourism -- with ecotourism model which has evolved mainly around Costa Rica's parks and protected areas over the last two decades. It is hoped that the research findings and analysis play a constructive role in helping to formulate new policy guidelines for ensuring sustainable development of coastal and marine tourism.

In fall of 2007, CESD assembled a team of Costa Rican researchers and an Advisory Committee composed of experts in their fields and representing a cross section of political views. They are united in their concern that there is an urgent need for an objective, data focused and unbiased study of tourism related development along Costa Rica's Pacific coast, as well as an assessment of future development plans and projections of what the likely impacts will be.

Key Research Questions:
How is residential tourism changing the Costa Rican physical, natural and human landscape? What have been the changes in land use in natural ecosystems, protected areas, urban areas, beaches, agricultural lands, tourism developments, and others?

What are the future trends?
How does 'residential tourism' differ from both older coastal resorts and the small scale eco-lodges? How is each related to use of protected areas? Do local communities and envrionments benefit by income generation from tourists? What are the implications for Costa Rica as a leading world tourism destination?
What are the realities and perceptions about the environmental impact of tourism and construction in the study area?

Are the legal and institutional frameworks sufficient for adequate planning of land use, its implementation, and its contribution to sustainable development? How can sustainable development goals be ensured?

What requirements requirements does tourism development present, and what forces drive investment in these fields? Is there competition between tourism and other productive sectors for specific resources? How are decisions made about expansion and use of public infrastructure (roads, airports, ports, energy, water, telecommunications? What is the role of the government, developers, private citizens, and international agencies (World Bank, IDB, others)?

How is the market demand driving vacation home developments in Costa Rica?
Using detailed case studies, how does coastal tourism compare in different locations along the coast, and between different models of tourism?