Date of Award


Document Type

Latin America


Tourism is a rapidly growing industry and the prospect of development in smallcommunities from opening ecotourism enterprises is attractive to many. Increasingly, tourists are interested in visiting places for their natural beauty and adventure opportunities. Frameworks of assessment for the sustainability of ecotourism projects exist, but there is an absence of broader criteria meant to act as an entry point into the on-going process of sustainability assessment. In order for assessments to be more useful and easily conducted,there is a need for a new set of sustainability indicators. Because the ecotourism industry is growing rapidly, assessments are important in order to keep the sustainability goals of ecotourism from being overlooked. This paper defines ecotourism and sustainability and reviews the literature on sustainability indicators recommended for assessing ecotourism. A new set of assessment criteria is proposed for implementation in systematic evaluations of ecotourism for large-scale use as well as a first step in beginning assessments. An in-depth evaluation of the assessment tools used to evaluate ecotourism in Costa Rica is presented in a meta-analysis of 8 case studies. Sustainability indicators in the literature can be overly complex, so this proposed set of criteria is more user-friendly and can be applied to a broad industry. Because it can be applied more widely, it has the potential to have a greater impact on global progress towards sustainability in the ecotourism industry.