Public Policy Tourism Public Policy Orientation Essay

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Public Policy Tourism

Public Policy Orientation and Tourism in Costa Rica

Just 20 years ago, Costa Rica scarcely registered in a discussion on global tourism. A small republic most noted for its agriculture and its production of tropical export goods such as coffee, pineapple, bananas and palm oil, Costa Rica's appeal was largely to natural history enthusiasts and science tourists. Quite to this point, an article from the time by Laarman & Perdue (1989) portrays the ecologically diverse nation as possessing a "small tourism industry" with "special interest" appeal. (Laarman & Perdue, p. 205) In just the last two decades however, this condition has changed dramatically. Where Laarman & Perdue refer to tourism as an important but modest secondary industry in Costa Rica as recently as 1989, tourism is today the lifeblood of the Costa Rican economy. With the coinage of the concept of ecotourism, Costa Rica has proven an exceptional destination for those seeking adventure, pristine natural beauty, a wide array of exotic plant and animal species and a compelling spectrum of geographically distinct regions.

In the face of these changes, Costa Rica is experiencing both opportunity and risk. It is therefore incumbent upon policymakers to ensure that the opportunities before Costa Rica are seized with conscientious management of the attendant risk factors to a fast-growing ecotourism economy.

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Essay on Public Policy Tourism Public Policy Orientation and Assignment

Little criticism can be levied against the Costa Rican tourism industry, which has performed with excellence as a growing force both in Costa Rican's modest but advancing economy and in the world tourism landscape. Costa Rica has enjoyed relative peace and stability since the end of the Cold War and the remission of American-Soviet hostilities in neighboring countries such as Panama and Nicaragua. Additionally, in spite of the modesty of its economic scale, Costa Rica is affluent where natural beauty, wildlife and ecology are concerned. As a result and with increasing prominence, Costa Rica has become a major tourist destination, particularly for those with designs on ecotourism and adventure tourism. The small Central American republic offers an expansive and diverse range of opportunities, boasting the world's only Cloud Forest ecosystem, offering massive stretches of unblemished tropical rainforest, boasting the Central Cordillera Mountains, possessing the still active Arenal Volcano and occupying significant stretches of both the Pacific and the Caribbean coastlines. These features have figured into a growing popularity that brings ever-greater numbers of foreign visitors, honeymooners, adventure-seekers and ecologists to Costa Rica.

According to the article by Sergio (2011), Costa Rica continues to court newcomers in record numbers. In 2010, Sergio reports, Costa Rica saw 2.1 million visitors. The importance that this represents to the Costa Rican economy can't possibly overstated at this juncture. According to the U.S. Department of State -- which identifies the U.S. As Costa Rica's top trade partner, the top importer of Costa Rican goods and the source for roughly half of all Costa Rica's tourism -- the tourism and service industries accounted for an estimated 71% of the Costa Rican Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010. (U.S. Department of States, p. 1)

While all of this has presented Costa Rica with a significant opportunity to advance as an economy and a participant in the global free trade community, it has also created a dilemma for Costa Rica. It must continue to find ways of achieving balance where this dilemma is concerned. Namely, just as Costa Rica has become a remarkable draw for visitors from around the world by virtue of its natural bounty, so too must it compromise some of that bounty to make way for hotel construction, the paving of new highways, the occurrence of more automotive traffic and the influx of human interaction with preserved natural lands. This has produced a great deal of risk for Costa Rica, which must work to maintain its high standards of environmental protection while finding ways of accommodating the visitation that gives girding to its whole economy and, increasingly, to the Costa Rican way of life. As the discussion and research presented hereafter will demonstrate, there are myriad challenges ahead of Costa Rica today. The improvements to the Costa Rican standard of living as a result of the massive influx of tourism cannot be overlooked. But neither can Costa Rica, nor we as a global community, allow this to obscure the true and perpetual value of protected natural lands. Thus, the research conducted here is intended to illuminate the various obstacles and opportunities before Costa Rica as it works to find balance between the advancement of its tourism and the conservation of its greatest resources.

Discussion:

The importance of tourism to Costa Rica's economy cannot be overstated. In addition to being the most profitable industry in the nation, its convergence with environmental conservation goals has also helped to produce an economic imperative for the protection of rainforests and other fertile wildlife habitats founds there within. And quite certainly, Costa Rica's primacy as an ecotourism destination has a directly reciprocal relationship with its vaunted record as a world leader in protective and conservationist efforts. According to the text by Menkhaus & Lober (1996), "Costa Rica, a country of little over 3 million inhabitants, has a wealth of biological diversity. Holdridge et al. (1971) list an extraordinary range of ecosystems which exist in the country, including 12 different life zones ranging from tropical dry to tropical wet to tropical sub-alpine. In fact, over one quarter of the country is located within 29 parks and protected areas, one of the highest protection rates in the world (Fundacion Neotropica, 1988)." (Menkhaus & Lober, p. 2)

The text by Menkhaus & Lober goes on to note that this high level of performance in the area of environmental protection shares a sometimes precarious balance between the desire to draw in ecotourists and the capacity to accommodate them. Indeed, its continued advancement as a major tourist destination has bred greater American interest in Costa Rica's economy and the consequences are both positive and negative. According to the U.S. Department of State, the partnership between the two nations is underscored by interest in environmental sustainability. The Department of State reports that "the two countries share growing concern about the environment and want to preserve Costa Rica's important tropical resources and prevent environmental degradation. In October 2010, the U.S. And Costa Rican Governments, the Central Bank of Costa Rica, and The Nature Conservancy concluded agreements that will provide more than $27 million over 15 years for tropical forest conservation in Costa Rica, one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth." (U.S. Department of State, p. 1)

In spite of its apparent dedication to the preservation of the Costa Rican ecology, the United States has also used Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the development of Costa Rica as a way of eroding state control over certain primary sectors and of making inroads toward the ownership of resources theretofore claimed by the people of Costa Rica. As the text by van Noorloos (2011) points out, the thrust toward trade liberalization may have negative consequences for the right of internal land-use determination for Costa Rica. As van Noorloos warns, "neo-liberal policies aimed at attracting foreign direct investment have played a large role in this change; and the 'foreignization' and privatization of land has been the result." The van Noorloos article goes on to examine "how the north-western coast of Costa Rica has become a transnational space, in which struggles over resources and development models will continue to arise." (Noorloos, p. 85)

For Costa Rica, the consequences of this continued trend could be nothing short of disastrous. Its appeal is centered largely on the unique capacity with which it has prevented deforestation and the success with which it has staved off the over-development that permeates most growing tourist destinations. Ceding control of these patterns to foreign interests, and especially those with the track record of exploitation held by the United States, could have the effect of gradually eliminating many of the pristine destinations that make Costa Rica unlike any other country in the world. In spite of these concerns, Costa Rica's rise in global prominence is most assuredly driven by its tourism industry and its consequently heightened capability to establish major trade partnerships with the developed sphere. This is why the dilemma is such a challenging one. According to Costa Rica Tourism (CRT)(2010), Costa Rica's involvement in free trade advancement is part and parcel of its ever-rising standard of living. CRT reports that "Costa Rica's economy has been constantly growing during the last 10 years. The country has signed seven trade agreements with other Latin American Costa Rica Beach countries, and one trade with the United States (CAFTA). It also has preferential access agreements with several European markets. This economic development has been encouraged by direct ocean access on both coastlines, easy access by road to neighboring countries, Nicaragua and Panama, as well as regular flight connections to North America, Latin America and Europe. Costa Rica has two international airports: Juan Santamaria in the capital city and Daniel… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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