Many countries in the Caribbean are exploring ecotourism, alongside mass tourism, as a development strategy in the period following the collapse of export crop industries. Ecotourism as a strategy for economic development has produced mixed, if not disappointing, outcomes for the lives of the majority of people where it has been attempted (Honey 1999; Sinclair 1998). This article makes the argument that successful pursuit of ecotourism to promote integrated economic and social development can be enhanced when there is potential for the adverse impacts of tourism to be mitigated by the presence of certain structural domestic conditions. Using evidence from the island state of St. Lucia where a programmatic effort by the state to promote heritage tourism has been in operation for almost two decades the theoretical argument is made that ecotourism that relies on the unique structure of local ownership of productive resources, supported by technical skill supplied by the state, facilitates greater participation in the tourist sector on terms advantageous to economically and socially marginalized participants. Thus far the Programme has encouraged environmental awareness and cultural appreciation in the local population, encouraged entrepreneurial activity, and diversified entry into an enclave sector through avenues other than cheap unskilled seasonal work. The article concludes with an examination of the prospect for this effort to contribute to more widespread development policy focused on social and environmental well-being.
|Keywords:||Ecotourism, Heritage Tourism, Social and Economic Development, Small Island States, Human Centered Development, Caribbean|
Professor and Department Chair, Department of Sociology, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA
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