Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Professor Steve Brechin
Professor Gretchen Purser
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Civic and Community Engagement | Regional Sociology | Sociology | Tourism | Work, Economy and Organizations
This paper explores a community-based ecotourism initiative called La Tortuga Feliz, in Pacuare Beach, Costa Rica. This organization founded and run by Western expatriates using a conservation approach provides benefits to the local community while meaningfully involving them in the process.
My research included an extensive literature review, informal and formal interviews as well as participant observation for one month on-site. The objective was to understand what it means to empower and involve local communities in a meaningful way in community-based ecotourism projects.
I will argue that La Tortuga Feliz, although facilitating some benefits to the community, also disempowers the local community, unable to satisfy the community’s need of autonomy and equity. The administration has a superiority complex, does not appropriately communicate, and does not trust the community, resulting in overall dissatisfaction.
Although La Tortuga Feliz faces some challenges, they do not appropriately address these challenges. These challenges include a lack of social and human capital, lack of funding, lack of administrative skill and the right attitude as well as failure to adequately address cultural differences.
Community development work is difficult. Fortunately, with the right attitude and knowledge, we can understand what successful community empowerment entails.
LeQuire, Rachel, "Ecotourism in Costa Rica: Empowering Local Communities" (2012). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 184.
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