“Pura Vida” Breakdown: A Triple Bottom Line Analysis of the Ecotourism Industry in Monteverde, Costa Rica

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Astor, Alexandra E.
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As ecotourism continues to gain international attention as a potential form of sustainable development, important questions arise about the impact of ecotourism industries on local communities and environments. Can ecotourism be a viable means to achieve economic prosperity that exists alongside a high quality of life for local residents and a healthy natural environment? If so, what conditions must be met for ecotourism to be a form of truly sustainable development? Using a multipronged process of primary and secondary source analysis, this research attempts to answer these questions by assessing the ecotourism industry in Monteverde, Costa Rica through a triple bottom line analysis (TBL); a sustainability assessment framework that is rarely used in development assessment. Through a TBL approach, an analysis of the economic bottom line, social bottom line, and environmental bottom line of this specific case study location, often deemed a “poster child” of ecotourism development, will provide insights on the successes of the ecotourism industry in Monteverde while also demonstrating fundamental challenges of the industry that must be addressed. Successes of Monteverde’s ecotourism industry, including local inclusion and the presence of organizations to monitor ecotourism’s impacts, can be reproduced in future development projects to increase the success of ecotourism projects. Likewise, documented challenges, such as lack of basic infrastructure and dependency on an industry that is intrinsically linked to a threatened environment, can allow for a reconsideration of ecotourism as a viable means of sustainable development. Overall, this research provides a new approach to sustainable development assessment that not only serves as a guide for future development projects but also encourages a more individualized, place-based approach to analyzing global sustainable development goals.
ecotourism, Monteverde, Costa Rica, Triple Bottom Line, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, social sustainability, economic sustainability