Tourism Could be Too Much of a Good Thing In Manuel Antonio and Quepos

More than one million people have made their way to Manuel Antonio National Park over the course of the last ten years.

Primarily drawn by the prospect of catching sight of two-toed sloths and capuchin monkeys in their native rain forest environment, visitors have latched onto Costa Rica’s ecotourism with a passion. While the booming tourism has certainly proved to be favorable for the local economy, there are some indications that so many visitors may be taking a toll on this jungle oasis.

One of the more common problems that have arisen is an increase in aggression among the monkeys, who have become accustomed to being fed by humans. Over a three-month period, three children were attacked. As a result of too many animals consuming food scraps left behind by humans and becoming ill, camping within the park has now been prohibited.

Today, rather than trying to rein in rampant development, officials are looking to mitigate the effects of a tourism trade that has become greater than perhaps expected. It is, without a doubt, essential to Manuel Antonio and Quepos, the small town to the north of the park, that proper management continues and the situation be salvaged.

As Costa Rica has become more widely known for its ecotourism, the tourism industry there has now outpaced the export bananas. Bringing more than 800,000 visitors to the country each year, the tourism industry provides $700 million annually. Thousands of people rely on the jobs produced by the tourism industry. The key is to act with logic and approach the care of the park with responsibility in order to ensure that what brings visitors from around the world is not lost in the process.

The park’s popularity began to truly boom during the mid-1980s after it was procured from a retired American naval officer. Within a decade, the park was receiving almost a quarter of a million visitors per year. In an effort to halt some of the park’s appeal, official began to restrict the number of visitors allowed at the park each day to 600 and increased the entrance fee.

Such efforts have resulted in a 50% decrease in annual visitors. While the park has witnessed some relief, the local tourism infrastructure, including that in Quepos, has suffered as a result. Restaurant and hotel owners, in particular, are not happy with the decline in tourism.

In the area around the park, there are now more than 100 hotels of all sizes. Accompanying the various accommodations are bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. Due to the fact that there is still not a sewage system in the area, waste is dumped into the sea. According to the municipal administrator in Quepos, there has been a need for a sewage system for a decade, but the cost is prohibitive.

For visitors who are not quite as interested in hiking through the jungle, sportsfishing has become a popular draw to the area, as well. In some cases, visitors pay several hundred dollars per day to charter boasts in the hope of reeling in a tuna, dorado, or sailfish. Three casinos have also been constructed in the area to appeal to visitors to the area who have a desire to try their luck.

Ultimately, finding the fine balance between too much tourism and enough to sustain the economy is critical for Manuel Antonio and Quepos. Tourists who come to the area to benefit from the ecotourism ultimately want to feel as though they are visiting an area that is still pristine.

This has largely served as the primary draw to the region for the last ten years. By carefully evaluating the situation and taking precautionary steps, it is possible to protect the lush natural beauty that draws visitors while at the same time nurturing the tourism that is so important to the local economy.

Tourism Could be Too Much of a Good Thing In Manuel Antonio and Quepos

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