Environmental Management

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 701–713 | Cite as

Ecotourism, sustainable development, and conservation education: Development of a tour guide training program in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

  • Susan K. Jacobson
  • Rafael Robles


A tour guide training program was developed for rural communities near Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park to respond to the impacts of the 24-fold increase in park visitation in the past decade, to involve local communities in resource management, and to provide regional environmental education. The development of the training course involved a survey of scientists and park managers to ascertain resource management needs, priorities for information to be disseminated, and impacts of tourism on the resource base. Current and potential tour guides were surveyed to identify their information needs, solicit their input in the training program, and to determine their knowledge and skills. Written questionnaires were developed and given to 400 tourists to determine their activities and environmental information needs, and hotel owners were censused to examine the economic feasibility of a local guide program. A pilot training course and guide program involving 12 Tortuguero residents demonstrated that a tour guide program: (1) helped mitigate negative tourism impacts on Tortuguero National Park's natural resources, particularly by regulating tourists on the park's 35-km beach used for nesting by endangered sea turtles; (2) provided environmental education to an important segment of the local community not traditionally reached through school or government development projects; (3) provided environmental information to tourists, thus enhancing their visit; and (4) provided local economic benefits through lucrative part-time employment, thereby allowing local people to participate more fully in the tourism system. An extended training course is being planned to provide further environmental education programming and to increase year-round employment opportunities for the tour guides.

Key words

Ecotourism Park interpretation Conservation education Sustainable development Costa Rica 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Beekhuis, J. 1981. Tourism in the Caribbean: Impacts on the economic, social, and natural environments.Ambio 10(6):325–331.Google Scholar
  2. Boo, E. 1990. Volume One: Ecotourism: the potentials and pitfalls. World Wildlife Fund Pub., Baltimore, Maryland, 73 pp.Google Scholar
  3. Boza, M. A. and R. Mendoza. 1981. The national parks of Costa Rica. INCAFO, San Jose, Costa Rica, 309 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, J. 1991. Building community support for protected areas: The case of Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica. Master's thesis, International Development, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, 184 pp.Google Scholar
  5. Butler, R. W. 1980. The concept of the tourist cycle of evolution: Implications for management of resources.Canadian Geographer 24:5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carr, A. and M. Carr. 1972. Site fixity in the Caribbean green turtle.Ecology 53(3):425–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ceballos-Lascurain, H. 1987. Estudio de prefactibilidad socioeconomica del turismo ecologico y anteproyecto arquitectonico y urbanistico del centro de turismo ecologicao de Sian Ka'an, Quintana Roo. Report to SEDUE, Mexico, cited in E. Boo, 1990. Volume one: Ecotourism: the potentials and pitfalls. World Wildlife Fund Pub., Baltimore, Maryland, 73 pp.Google Scholar
  8. Dietz, L. A. 1986. Community conservation education program for the golden lion tamarin. Pages 8–16in Proceedings of the building support for conservation in rural areas conference, 27–31 May 1986. QLF/Atlantic Center for the Environment Publication, Ipswich, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  9. Dolsen, D. E. and G. E. Machlis. 1989. Visitor services project Everglades National Park. Visitors Services Project Report 21, Cooperative Park Studies Unit, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, 54 pp.Google Scholar
  10. Fitter, R. 1986. Wildlife for man: How and why we should conserve our species. William Collins Sons and Co., Ltd., London, 223 pp.Google Scholar
  11. Healy, R. G. 1988. Economic considerations in nature-oriented tourism: the case of tropical forest tourism. FPEI Working Paper No. 39. Southeastern Center for Forest Economics Research, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, 55 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Hill, C. 1990. The paradox of tourism in Costa Rica.Cultural Survival Quarterly 14(1):14–19.Google Scholar
  13. Holdridge, L. 1967. Life zone ecology. Tropical Science Center Publ., San Jose, Costa Rica, 124 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Jacobson, S. K. 1987. Conservation education programs: evaluate and improve them.Environmental Conservation 14:201–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jacobson, S. K. 1991. Resident attitudes about a national park and conservation in Sabah, Malaysia. Pages 402–422in P. C. West and S. Brechin (eds.), Resident populations and national parks in developing nations: Interdisciplinary perspectives and policy implications. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.Google Scholar
  16. Laarman, J. G. and P. B. Durst. 1987. Nature travel in the tropics: Is this growing enterprise a trend in wildlands management?Journal of Forestry 85(5):43–46.Google Scholar
  17. Mathieson, A., and G. Wall. 1982. Tourism: Economic, physical, and social impacts. Longman Group Ltd., Essex, England, 209 pp.Google Scholar
  18. Myers, R. L. 1981. The ecology of low diversity palm swamps near Tortuguero, Costa Rica. PhD. dissertation, Botany, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 300 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Olson, E. C., M. L. Bowman, and R. E. Roth. 1984. Interpretation and nonformal environmental education in natural resources management.Journal of Environmental Education 115(4):6–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rearce, D. 1981. Tourist development. Longman House, New York, 341 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Place, S. 1988. Parques Nacionales y Desarrollo en Latinoamerica, el casa de Tortuguero, Costa Rica.Geoistmo 2(1):1–28.Google Scholar
  22. Place, S. 1991. Nature tourism and rural development in Tortuguero.Annals of Tourism Research 18(2):186–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sharpe, G. D. 1982. Interpreting the Environment. Wiley & Sons, New York, 694 pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan K. Jacobson
    • 1
  • Rafael Robles
    • 2
  1. 1.Conservation Education and Natural Resource Management Program Department of Wildlife and Range SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesville
  2. 2.Tortuguero Coordinator of Environmental Education, Ecotourism, and ExtensionCaribbean Conservation CorporationSan JoseCosta Rica

Personalised recommendations