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Tourism Planning

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Robinson and Novelli (2005) note ‘niche tourism’ has become a growing trend occurring in current years in contrast to what is frequently related to as ‘mass tourism’. Cusack and Dixon (2006) add niche tourism is known to present diversity and provide opportunities with a form of tourism that aims towards sustainability alongside considering expenditure from tourists. Furthermore, it suggests a more practical set of strategies that distinguishes tourists. Gartner (1996) demonstrates how niche tourism consists of distinct interests, culture and/or activity built tourism including small proportion of tourist in authentic surroundings. Moreover, niche tourism can fall into more specific categories where cultural, environmental, rural and urban sectors are different components to consider when understanding the concept niche tourism (Robinson and Novelli, 2005).
Drawing on key literature about eco-tourism planning and how ecotourism is marketed, this report studies the ecotourism prospects in Costa Rica. It also examines elements impacting this specific type of niche which considers the consistent alterations to make the destination more sustainable for tourists. This report will firstly focus on understanding the concept of ecotourism and the principles implemented. This leads on to discussion for focusing on the case study of Costa Rica and how it has developed into an ecotourism destination. Furthermore, a critical discussion of the approaches undertaken by the country will be conveyed, alongside stakeholder and partnerships that play a crucial role of the management of the destination. Finally, discussion will centre on the future directions and recommendations for Costa Rica in relation to help provide growth and become a leading ecotourism destination.
Costa Rica is a principle example of niche tourism that explores ecotourism through planning and implementing sustainable practices. The country is widely acclaimed for implementating ecotourism as a nationwide conservation and growth policy (Stem et al, 2003). However, based on the managerial philosophies of ecotourism, a valid dispute can be portrayed that ecotourism in Costa Rica has not created the anticipated results and is less sustainable than predicted. Conversely, a corresponding solid argument can be highlighted that although the destination may not be presently sustainable, it has however to fully develop and has exposed signs of improvement that it can accomplish a balance between growth and conservation aims through sustainable practices (Buchsbaum, 2004).

Ecotourism is a growing niche market within the travel industry, with the consideration of being a fundamental sustainable development tool (UNEP/WTO, 2002). Ecotourism has several complex definitions, however a concise and prevalent understanding of ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people” (TIES, 2014). However Weaver (1998) argues there is a lack of a strong meaning and the uncertainties that frame the word ecotourism make it virtually meaningless. Page and Dowling (2002) identify the purpose of ecotourism is about the collaboration of conservationists, sustainable travel and community impacts. Honey (1999) further indicates those who apply strategies and the participants in ecotourism events must consider the significant ecotourism values: construct cultural and environmental awareness, minimise negative environmental impacts; provide direct economic benefits for conservation; deliver optimistic experiences for hosts and visitors; provide economic advantages for the local communities and increase awareness to host nations in terms of their environmental, social and political climate (TIES, 2014; Hetzer, 1965). It is important to note Ecotourism accounts for 6% of the worldwide GDP with an astounding growing rate of 5% per annum (Nora, 2012).
Page and Dowling (2002) cite the relevance of understanding the different components between “hard” and “soft” ecotourism. For example hard ecotourism is the desirable type which emphasises a long term attitude towards nature. Additionally, trips tend to be specialised i.e. undertaken for ecotourism purposes only, with participants likely to be environmentalists who are dedicated to the principles of sustainability (Sharpley and Telfer 2002). In contrast soft ecotourism is the consideration of the short term and favourable with many participants who are tourists with less appreciation for the environment. Moreover, soft ecotourism occurs in a less natural setting such as wildlife parks, however is usually accompanied by a high level of service and facility provision (Weaver and Lawton, 2002).
Orams (1995) highlights the purpose for ecotourism becoming an important aspect in recent years. He suggests the term can be outlined back to the 1980’s, with invention being the outcome of increased acknowledgment of and response to negative effects as a consequence of mass tourism in natural spaces. Middleton and Hawkins (1998) explain the suitable term occurs from the positive perceptions related to the term ‘eco’, for example, in eco-sensitive and ecosystem, with the action of tourism been combined to produce a term that demonstrates a perception which has become favourable and relevant today. Moreover, Honey (1999) suggests the growth within this niche is due to the pleasant climate, admirable national parks, friendly local people and stable democratic governments. However, Harrison (2001) argues the development of ecotourism in countries has been significantly simplified by the occurrence of institutions such as the Institute for Biodiversity (INBIO) and the Organisation for Tropical Studies (OTS) which assisted recognition of ecotourism’s appearance world-wide. Taking into consideration this aspect, ecotourism trends is discussed on the basis of evaluating ecotourism influences as a whole.

Page and Dowling (2002) highlight the variety of trends that impact ecotourism currently and into the future. They consist of the strong market demand, high-profile nature, increasing professionalism, widespread implementation of practices and the fact ecotourism is a growing niche within the industry. Furthermore, ecotourism obtained 7% of the global market in 2007 with a worldwide market economic influence of $77 billion (WTTC, 2010). In terms of the strong market demand for ecotourism it is evident from the worldwide growth of tourism that illustrates an 8% increase per annum for the growth of ecotourism (UNEP/WTO, 2002). It is therefore evident that ecotourism will continue to grow and capture more market share into the forthcoming years , especially with evidence from the Costa Rica case study throughout this discussion .

Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Zambrano, Broadbent and Durham (2010) indicate Costa Rica is considered a small Central American country that lies between Panama to the south and Nicaragua to the north. Stem et al (2003) further identifies the country is broadly considered one of the world’s principal examples of environmental protection, with more than 25% of its landscape in endangered regions.
Mesa, Oleas and Jose (2012) highlight by the 1980’s Costa Rica needed to alter their approaches as a destination because they had the highest rate of deforestation in all of Latin America. In 1985 the Costa Rica Parks director requested for a study to be conducted on the situation Zambrano, Broadbent and Durham (2010). Dulude (2000) adds by the 1990’s, the study transformed ecotourism’s future in Costa Rica with sustainable timber harvesting, environmental education, improved farming methods and community involvement in activities were implemented successfully. Empirical evidence suggests Monteverde is the most famous private reserve and Costa Rica’s leading ecotourism destination (Buchsbaum, 2004). Furthermore, the destination is well known for its conservation and tourism strategies (Butcher, 2008).
Almeyda et al (2010) suggests whilst many nations world-wide are centring on fast urbanisation and industrialisation, Costa Rica has relied on ecotourism as its crucial economic generator. Even though the country is relatively small, Costa Rica has indescribable biodiversity with impressive volcanoes, exotic wildlife, picturesque beaches and lush rain forest (Stem et al, 2003). Moreover, the country’s tourism industry accounts for approximately 1 million visitors per annum and produces approximately $1 billion each year, therefore makes Cost Rica the second principal source of revenue (Dulude, 2000). It is evident that Costa Rica’s tourism sector has grown rapidly for specific reasons. According to a 2012 TripAdvisor survey nearly a third of travellers would select a destination for a trip because it is perceived as eco-friendly. Costa Rica is the key country in the world for travellers engrossed in an eco-friendly vacation (CREST, 2014).
In terms of how ecotourism in Costa Rica is operated is essential in order to aim towards supporting the local communities and persuade travellers to be culturally aware by purchasing local products and services to further stimulate the economy and by training and employing local people (Burnett, 2014). Drawing on empirical evidence the Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program (CST) is a product implemented by the Costa Rican Tourist Board (ICT), the program is a fundamental element of how ecotourism attributes are achieved and this is proven one of the most successful procedures (Bien, 2002). Zambrano, Broadbent and Durham (2010) illustrate the program was created to distinguish businesses of the tourism industry, focused on the level to which they obey with a sustainable model of cultural, natural and social impacts. Regarding each segment, organisation of waste and emissions, preservation of flora and fauna, economic influences and cultural growth are all considered (Courvisanos and Jain; 2006, Turismo Sostenible; 2004).
O’Donnell (2014) highlights how ecotourism has benefited the nation of Costa Rica through a major increase in the visitor capacity. He demonstrates in 2012 an astonishing 2.34 million classified as ecotourists visited the nation. Additionally, Robinson and Phipps (2003) point out the visitor number produced $2.4 billion USD in terms of income for Costa Rica. Ecotourism in Costa Rica appeals to a wide range of travellers, from wealthy retirees to the typical individual backpacker (GreenLiving, 2014). Overall, the ecotourism demographic trends slope towards wealthier, college-educated experienced travellers over the age of 30 (O’Donnell, 2014).
Harrison (2001) illustrates that ecotourism in Costa Rica offers a perspective on life, different from the modernised world, simultaneously letting tourists avoid the dishearten truths of poverty in the Third World. Ecotourism in Costa Rica also inspires individual protection practices based on the individual eco-tourist. Johns (2012) notes how ecotourism is meant to teach and interest tourists. Thus, by experiencing direct attractiveness of the majesty of a Red Macaw or the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, tourists can arrive home with a more positive outlook on the environment (Lumsdon and Swift, 1998). Additionally, educational leaflets and knowledgeable tour guides can provoke tourists to become conservationists, thereby endorsing conservation efforts globally. Many scholars provide a strong rationale that ecotourism can provide negative influences which potentially are the impacts on the economy and less focus on the environmental issues (Jacobson and Robles; 1992, Weaver and Lawton; 2002). Isaacs (2000) argues the quantity of income from ecotourism began to increase, with the problems of managing the local environment and nature became secondary matters with all the devotion concentrated on revenue maximisation.
Costa Rica has many stakeholders and private/public partnerships that are engaging and striving towards the ecotourism niche. For instance the local government within the destination is a major contributor to accomplishing the goals however cannot overshadow local interests, it is more the local authorities and conservation groups as such that are the key generator in this case (Wood, 2002). Consequently, throughout the report, this aspect will be portrayed in more detail.

Tourism Plan and Approach
Tourism Planning and approaches undertaken are deeply considered to be a vital impact in order to strive towards the sustainability pillars. Koens, Dieperink and Miranda (2009) demonstrate ecotourism in Costa Rica is a complex phenomenon that relies on a combined, collaborative and complete approach to planning. Courvisanos and Jain (2006) dispute ecotourism is interconnected and interdependent upon a variety of systems therefore should be observed in a combined and complete framework. It is imperative to note this idea of macro-level planning of ecotourism is particularly fundamental (Koens, Dieperink and Miranda 2009).
Gartner (1996) explain the protection and enhancement of the natural and cultural environment of an area is significant, whilst upholding or increasing the level of economic returns. Furthermore, if this is achieved, the quality of life for residents of the host community will rise and visor satisfaction will be enhanced (Weaver and Lawton, 2002). Ancillary outputs such as infrastructure development and an increase supply of recreation and cultural amenities for residents and guests will also result. With this concept in mind, Bramwell (1991) proposes techniques for achieving sustainable development in Costa Rica which consists of assessment of carrying capacity, transport management, conservation and adaption, marketing and information, creation and control of development and engaging the local community. However, Gartner (1996) argues development policies are still in the experimental stage for Costa Rica. An operational model has been developed for Costa Rica. The model integrates agriculture, water resources, mining, economic, urbanisation, tourism energy and science (Bramwell, 1991). Having explained the foundation for ecotourism planning, discussion now centres on analysis of strategies implemented more recently in Costa Rica.
A variety of strategies have been implemented to create a more sustainable form of ecotourism. A return of the deforestation commenced with the introduction of strategy programs like the Environmental Service Payment (ESP) (France, 1997; Koens, Dieperink and Miranda, 2009). This offers a fiscal incentive to cultivation and forest preservation. As an outcome of this of this approach, the percentage of forest attention has increased since the 1990’s (UNEP, 2014). The advertisement of ecotourism as a substitute land use was also considered a section of this plan (Miranda, 2003).
The implementation of the Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion (SINAC) in 1995 was created by the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Miranda, 2003).It is a dispersed and participating scheme designed at accomplishing sustainable management of the nation’s natural assets (Backman, Wright and Backman, 1994). The principal objective of SINAC is the connection between the endangered areas in Costa Rica. SINAC has formed provincial offices where locals participate in conservation activities alongside the promotion and growth of sustainable tourism (Johns, 2012). Additionally, (Buchsbaum, 2004) indicates non-governmental organisations have a vital responsibility in preserving landscapes, as they obtain vast amounts of spoiled land enclosed by remainder forest and advertise protecting activities. Madriz (2002) and Miranda (2003) further identify 4% of the maintained land is privately owned.

Finally, the Costa Rican Tourist Board (ICT) discovered the blue flag eco-labelling program for beaches, which integrates sustainable growth philosophies (TIES, 2014). Moreover, this program proved a success and was accompanied by a certification system for sustainable tourism (CST) (Eriksson and Lidstram, 2013). Tourism businesses and hotels that reach environmental, conomic and social criteria are certified. CST is acclaimed for being a leading sustainable tourism certification scheme. However, Bien (2002) and Honey (2003) argue the program is occasionally criticised for demanding vast amounts of documents, which can potentially make the program less appropriate for smaller businesses.
In addition, International development agencies have a fundamental role to play in terms of planning in ecotourism because they finance projects relating to tourism growth, the conservation of biodiversity and micro-enterprise development which are separate elements that relate to ecotourism (Robinson and Phipps 2003).. Regarding Costa Rica, International lending and aid agencies such as the World Bank and USAID have impelled financial revenue into projects relating to ecotourism with a philosophy centred on sustainable development, biodiversity, local income, established capacity building and growth of infrastructure (Honey, 1999).
Drawing on significant literature, evidence highlights that Costa Rica’s planning approaches can be viewed as sustainable (Johns, 2012; Koens, Dieperink and Miranda, 2009).In contrast , certain scholars disagree and believe some of the strategies identified above can cause implications (Bien, 2002; Honey, 2003). Moreover, collaboration and cooperation between key actor such as tourists, private sector organisations and stakeholders are crucial for successful ecotourism policy and planning. Backman, Wright and Backman, (1994) cites more cooperation between these significant performers can strive towards more public material and enhancements in decision-making, which the discussion centres on further throughout the report.

Ecotourism Marketing
Marketing is a significant economic component for positive ecotourism and is one of the most fundamental mechanisms of the travel industry overall (Novelli, 2005). Buchsbaum (2004) notes the demand for ecotourism is growing and the industry has accepted notice towards this occurrence. The tourism industry considers ecotravel as a marketing tool in order to obtain to a large quantity of environmentally and socially conscious travellers (Honey, 1999).
Pike (2008) clarifies Destination Marketing Organisations (DMO’s) are an imperative attribute in order to ensure destination receive the best possible outcomes with regards to ecotourism marketing prospects. Pike and Ryan (2004) highlights a DMO can be defined as “any organisation, at any level, which is responsible for the marketing of an identifiable destination”. Heath and Wall (1992) identifies the primary responsibility of a DMO is to act as the direct frame for both the private and public sector organisations where they take an interest in tourism. Middleton, Fyall and Morgan (2009) note effective destination marketing entails considering the inspirations and choices of visitors; recognising suitable visitor markets that suit the destinations amenities and experiences and assist community morals; developing a tactical marketing policy to provide route for destination marketing activities; engaging with stakeholders to obtain a strong and familiar destination brand and image; create procedures to involve stakeholders to enable important marketing activities and effective construction of a destination brand that is in harmony with the local people’s ambitions.
Costa Rica is a current example of implementing such components within the destination. For instance in 2012 following the “Million Dollar Gift of Happiness” marketing campaign is successful because they have an effective marketing strategy which considers the rising usage of mobile devices and tablets (Dasenbrock, 2014; Nora, 2012). Moreover, the Costa Rican Tourism Board launched an iPad application that combines sounds from the Costa Rican nature to create musical sounds (Burnett, 2014). “EnviroMixer” is the last component of the Costa Rica’s campaign which directly targets the developing trend in mobile and tablet audiences (Nora, 2012). The ICT Marketing Director describes how the application is a tactic of carefully relating to their target market to help raise awareness of the environmental characteristics that make Costa Rica different and attractive for ecotourism (Modiano, 2012).
Marketing Director of ICT, Maria Amalia Revelo, highlights " Tourism experience, good recommendations from their customers, a shared vision for sustainability, and a reputation for establishing long term relationships with their accounts, were key to the choice of this marketing firm” (, 2014). This statement therefore suggests, for the Costa Rican Tourist Board to accomplish success these key marketing components are the main focus and contribute to targeting the current markets in order to maintain a sustainable business and poetry sustainable development.
Additionally, certification schemes are a key market-based tool in Costa Rica. Globalisation and increasing tourism in the remote destination, the certification label allocates trust and confidence bridging the various market players (, 2014). Costa Rica tourism businesses enter into certification in order to improve quality and performance of their business and staff, cut costs, protect the environment and local communities, gain market advantage and maintain green washing in order to keep up with market demand (, 2014).
Stem et al (2003) express how grandparents alongside younger generations are a fundamental aspect in relation to marketing as they convey environmental data and raise awareness. Other elements consist of radio and television which contribute to knowledge on forests and wildlife. Many people refer to La Planeta Azul or parallel television shows that have enabled visitors understand how vital protecting the environment is for Costa Rica (, 2014). Salafsky et al (2002) provide indicate how the relevance of education and raising recognition in assisting conservation-based businesses achieve environmental aims.

Stakeholders and private/public partnerships
Cusack and Dixon (2006) note for ecotourism to be efficiently implemented, local and international stakeholders rely on the government especially the Ministry of Transportation, whom created polices that will preserve and control natural areas in Costa Rica. Zambrano, Broadbent and Durham (2010) point out a prime example of a partnership community project within Costa Rica is the Lapa Rios Eco-lodge. They have collaborated to create a “no-cut canopy roadway” in the area. Additionally, the improvements in infrastructure in the area have provided easier accessibility.
Moreover, Costa Rica Tourism Board is also a vital player in launching the status and brand image of the country as an ecotourism destination. ICT are continuously searching for methods in order to make the Costa Rican Tourism industry more modest and uphold its segment of the global market (TIES, 2014). Furthermore, strategic changes consist of strengthening the processes of planning for tourism development, attraction and assessment of investors and growth of quality and competitiveness systems (Jacobson and Robles, 1992). Bien (2002) illustrates how the private institution is currently in partnership with the Certification of Sustainable Tourism (CST). CST was provided by ICT and aims to distinguish tourism businesses created on the degree to which they obey by a sustainable model of natural, cultural and social resource management (, 2014). Bien, (2002) exemplifies how CST is regulated by the Costa Rican National Accreditation Commission and includes a scale of 5 levels, indicated by green leaves, of sustainable tourism achievement. UNEP/WTO (2002) points out El Remanso Lodge in Osa Peninsula, Cota Rica was presented with the level 5 of the Certification of Sustainable Tourism. (2014) highlights level 5 is considered to be the highest possible rating El Remanso has achieved 100% of the points in each area of evaluation. In addition, Zambrano, Broadbent and Durham (2010) cite utilising renewable energy to power the lodge's processes, El Remanso Lodge implements various sustainability platforms such as: developing local and sustainable building resources including naturally fallen timber; avoiding pesticides or harmful chemicals; liberal waste management to avoid waste; prohibiting bottled water; and using fully recyclable cleaning products.
Almeyda et al (2010) highlights The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) which is the world’s principal association devoted to social, environmental and economic sustainable travel, partnered with FUNDEMAS which is a non-profit organisation with the goal to help further create and reinforce ecotourism and sustainable tourism in El Salvador. FUNDEMAS, the Business Foundation for Social Action is a foundation that advertises sustainable growth through socially responsible strategies, business values and charitable ideas (, 2014). The project entailed establishment of a national strategy for sustainable development of tourism in El Salvador” (Chacon and Barquero, 2002). This organisation was to ensure the application of policies in ecotourism and sustainable tourism strategies. Buchsbaum (2004) further exemplifies The Ecotourism and Sustainable Development in El Salvador Workshop in 2008 played a significant role in integrating the values of sustainability into the future tourism development in El Salvador. This workshop provided education to business leaders, policy creators and community stakeholders, by producing a nationwide system of ecotourism (, 2014).

Cusack and Dixon (2006) exemplify “ANAI” is the only example of a regional authority organisation working to simplify the sustainable growth of ecotourism projects in La Amistad Biosphere Reserve. ANAI has been working in the Talamancan region has established a conservation strategy, the Talamancan Initiative, which is focused on assisting the integration of biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, sustainable socio-economic development, and community development of the Talamancan region (Cusack and Dixon, 2006). It is significant the project entails the partnership and cooperation of over twenty grassroots, community-built organisation, several small-scale producers, and the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment (Chacon and Barquero, 2002). Dasenbrock (2014) argues having a precise organisation helps simplify movement and provide clear information among numerous projects. It also delivers a place for training development and informative programs for local community members participating in the project. This regional organisation connects countless local NGOs together and serves as a link to the national and international community, a service which is intensely absent on the Panamanian side of La Amistad (Chacon and Barquero, 2002).
Grassroots organisations are also vital to ecotourism in Costa Rica. For example, one grassroots organisation, a nationwide eco-agricultural supportive network called COOPRENA, has started to advertise community-based ecotourism strategies. Six farming companies now provide ecotourism as part of a diversified livelihood strategy (, 2014). Additionally, Buchsbaum (2004) demonstrates the cooperative is helping farmers design ways to use their land productively while also conserving natural resources and generate employment and other socio-economic advantages. The company have strategic partners like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), alongside several others (, 2014). These bodies cooperate on the development of social venture projects that help formulate communities for participation in tourism, an imperative economic opportunity (Buchsbaum, 2004).
Finally, Johns (2012) highlights Rara Avis is an example of a privately owned ecotourism venture, which has had a significant positive impact. Rara Avis is a widely held Costa Rican business, which was established in 1983 (Buchsbaum, 2004).Wood (2002) notes Rara Avis has two rainforest lodges, which can occupy about 40 people together, and a biological station located within the reserve (WTTC, 2010). Sharpley and Telfer (2002) indicates the area is next to to Braulio Carillo National Park and the Zona Protedora La Selva. The park has been profitable since 1990 and an expansion is planned. The flora and fauna of this reserve are impressive, with over 360 bird species having been verified (, 2014). Rara Avis has made significant donations to conservation, biological research and environmental education (Buchsbaum, 2004).

Conclusions: Future directions and recommendations
The dominant aim of the report was to critically analyse tourism planning regarding the growing niche of ecotourism in Costa Rica. Additionally, how the destination markets the niche with the help of stakeholder’s involvement. Finding solutions to the ecotourism issues are likely to alter for each project since different areas of Cost Rica are distinctive. Ecotourism strategies should be inventive, supple and adaptive enough so they help the exact purpose of each community which might alter into the forthcoming years. Furthermore, the ecotourism market is consistently increasing which will provide implications on environmentally delicate areas and communities throughout Costa Rica. Ecotourism is becoming a more essential choice for the specific Non-profit organisations such as FUNDEMAS and private and public partnerships. As the amount of ecotourism places in Costa Rica increase, there is a necessity for an increase in awareness, education and commitment to ecotourism values so that it overcome the sustainability pillars.
Ecotourism might not be a panacea for resolving all the development problems in all developing countries, Costa Rica appears to have exclusive potential to assist sustainable development. The key is to balance economic, social, and environmental aims. To some extent, ecotourism in Costa Rica has already confirmed that it can provide benefits to communities, boost economic production, and protect the environment simultaneously. Furthermore, although, the industry has faced several difficulties with integration of plans and approaches, the growing visitor amount, raising awareness and revenue generated outweighs the weaknesses. As Martha Honey, the novelist of Ecotourism and Sustainable Development book and previous occupant of Costa Rica, states “They do ecotourism very well in Costa Rica” (Egan, 2001). Therefore, taking everything into account, the best way to continue the development and develop planning strategies and practices of ecotourism in Costa Rica is to utilise the managerial philosophies of sustainable development as the substance for decision making, to guarantee that economic, social and environmental responsibilities are justifiably accomplished.

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