This page was last updated May 3, 2010


April 30, 2010: CREST's new study, the lead story in the Tico Times. Click here to read two lead stories and two opinion pieces by Martha Honey and William Durham.

Read the Responsible Development Front Newsletter. Click here to read the article.

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Coastal Tourism

Sinaloa Sur Initiative

In partnership with knowledgeable and committed local partners, CREST is exploring ways to develop competitive and sustainable tourism in Southern Sinaloa, Mexico.

Along with workshops and a plenary session on "Destination-Level Sustainability" at the 2nd Executive Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism, CREST has created a series of Factsheets examining critical issues in sustainable tourism development for Sinaloa Sur. These Factsheets cover topics ranging from consumer demand for responsible tourism to the impact of climate change on coastal tourism.  Additional workshops in Mazatlan will help CREST and partners develop sustainability criteria for new tourism development.

Check out our Fact Sheets on Sustainable and Competitive Tourism in Sinaloa Sur:



"A Portrait of Economic Realities in Nosara and Sámara: Providing Tools for Sustainable Development"

Clic aqui para leer el proyecto en español.

This study of Nosara and Sámara Districts in Costa Rica, provide the Nosara Civic Association (NCA) which represents the coastal zone and Development Association of Nosara (ADIN) with essential data and technical assistance needed to move forward plans for both governmental reform and sustainability.

"Balancing Sustainable Tourism & Commercial Fishing In a Marine Protected Area, Turneffe Atoll, Belize"

Click Here for the Executive Summary

This analysis, by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), examines key issues facing the new 325,000 acre Marine Reserve and the Reserve's two main economic sectors: commercial fishing and tourism. The study was funded by Turneffe Atoll Trust to better understand these issues.

The purpose of this analysis is twofold: 1) to determine measures for building a successful Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve that ensures sustainable tourism development and a sustainable commercial fishery, and 2) to analyze the potential for synergies between the Atolls's tourism and commercial fishing sectors.

"Alternative Development Models and Good Practices for Sustainable Costal Tourism: A Framework for Decision Makers in Mexico"

Clic Aquí para la Versión en Español

The Framework for Decision Makers compiles existing good practices for sustainable, large-scale coastal tourism in Mexico.  In light of the Calderon administration’s reinvigoration of tourism, and the emphasis on competitiveness and sustainability in the National Tourism Accord and General Tourism Law, CREST has compiled existing good practices for resorts, vacation homes, marinas and golf courses in a clear, user-friendly format in Spanish and English.  The Framework for Decision Makers also addresses several broader tourism policy issues such as suggestions for the incomplete reglamento of the GeneralTourism Law, tourism planning for climate change, consumer demand, and good practices in site selection.  Taken together, the Framework for Decision Makers demonstrates what truly sustainable integrated tourism development looks like.

“This is not a technical manual for engineers, nor a tip sheet for travelers,” says co-author David Krantz, “but rather a practical handbook based on existing good practices in use today.  It can serve as a basis for development decisions and tourism policy going forward.”

The research findings, analysis, and recommendations in this report are intended to play a constructive role in helping to foment public discussion, civic engagement, and policy reforms to ensure sustainable development of coastal and marine tourism.

"The Impact of Tourism Related Development along Costa Rica's Pacific Coast"

Summary Report

Leer En Espanol

Click here to read press coverage of the summary report from Costa Rica.

Click here for Tico Times (April 30, 2010) coverage including lead story, editorial and op-ed from Martha Honey and William Durham.

CREST releases a statement regarding the film "Cracking the Golden Egg: Tourism on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast". Click here to read the statement.

Over the last decade, Costa Rica’s Pacific coast has become one of the epicenters in the Americsignsas of rapid beach resort and vacation home development closely tied to the U.S. market. CREST’s research project is designed to analyze and understand this phenomenon in order to provide lessons and policy recommendations for Costa Rica as well as for other countries already facing or beginning to experience rapid transformation driven by international resort, residential, and cruise tourism.  This project builds on CREST’s earlier research and field studies of the global trends in coastal tourism and the impacts of cruise tourism. It has been conducted according to Stanford University’s academic research protocols, and has been financed with grants from the Blue Moon Fund, with additional support provided by Stanford University.

Goals and Purpose:

This multi-dimensional study, carried out over two years by researchers in Costa Rica and the U.S., has assessed the growth, trends, and impacts of tourism and tourism-related development along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The region examined runs coastal-developmentfrom Guanacaste (including the Nicoya Peninsula, Gulf of Papagayo, and Liberia) in the north through to the Central Pacific (including Jaco, Quepos-Manuel Antonio and Puntarenas) down to the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce in the south. It compares the increasingly dominant models of coastal and marine tourism – characterized by large resorts, vacation homes (“residential tourism”), and cruise tourism – with Costa Rica’s widely acclaimed model of ecotourism and sustainable tourism which has evolved over the last two decades. The research traces the origins of this coastal transformation from the 1970s to the present, with particular focus on the real estate and construction boom and bust (caused by the international economic crisis) from about 2002 to 2009. The research findings, analysis, and recommendations are intended to play a constructive role in helping to foment public discussion, civic engagement, and policy reforms to ensure sustainable development of coastal and marine tourism.


This project was originally conceived at the launch of the Peace with Nature Initiative in mid-2007 when CREST heard from leaders in government, tourism, and civil coastsociety concerns about the lack of integrated data and on-the-ground analysis of the fast-paced real estate boom and tourism-related development underway along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. In late 2007, CREST carried out a preliminary investigation along the Pacific coast and put together the research proposal. In January 2008, CREST assembled a Research Team and an Advisory Committee composed of experts in their fields and representing a cross section of political views. They are united in their concern that there is an urgent need for an objective, data focused and unbiased study of tourism related development along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, as well as an assessment of future development plans and projections of what the likely impacts will be.

Key Research Questions

The study has sought to answer a series of questions and provide an overall assessment of the forces and trends driving tourism-related development along the Pacific coast. Key questions answered by this study are:

  1. How is resort and residential tourism changing Costa Rica’s physical, natural, and human landscape?
  2. What have been the roles of the Costa Rican government and the private sector (both local and international) in this transformation?
  3. How is international market demand driving resort, cruise, and vacation homephoto development?
  4. What are the realities and perceptions about the environmental and social impacts of tourism-linked real estate sales and construction along the coast?
  5. What are the laws and government institutions responsible for overseeing the coastal region and are they adequate to ensure proper land use planning, protection of natural and human resources, and sustainable development? 
  6. How does resort and residential tourism differ from Costa Rica’s model of high-value sustainable and eco- tourism? What are the costs and benefits of these different tourism models?
  7. How does resort and residential tourism fit within Costa Rica’s stated goal of sustainable tourism development?
  8. What are the lessons learned and implications of large scale tourism for other areas, particularly the biodiversity rich Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce?


The research projects include 18 individual studies, written in either English or Spanish, which are posted here. In addition, we have one synthesized Final Report and one lengthy Executive Summary which are being finalized and will be posted shortly, in both English and Spanish. CREST also organized hosted the first Coastal Tourism Innovators Symposium, held at Stanford University, January 20-22, 2010. Click here to see the Symposium proceedings

The following are the individual reports, written in English or Spanish:

List of Researchers
Chart of Reports
List of Advisory Committee

Title Author Pages Download
Summary Report Martha Honey, Erick Vargas and William H. Durham 113 Click here
Informe Ejecutivo Martha Honey, Erick Vargas and William H. Durham 125 Click here
Dinámica Territorial del Desarrollo Turístico Costero: Desarrollo y Ocupación del Espacio TT Argos 111 Click here
Legal and Institutional Framework Related to Coastal Tourism Development Jorge Cabrera 21 Click here
Analysis of the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, Liberia, Guanacaste Luis Morales and Lawrence Pratt 91 Click here
Analysis of International Airport Surveys: 2006-2008 Millay Kogen 17 Click here
Polo Turístico Golfo de Papagayo Guanacaste, Costa Rica Arq. Alberto Salas Roiz 94 Click here
Dinámica del Mercado Inmobiliario en la Costa Pacífica de Costa Rica Marcela Román Forastelli 74 Click here
Anexo: Proyectos Comerciales, Residenciales y Hoteleros en Cantones Costeros del Pacífico Costarricense Marcela Román Forastelli 8 Click here
Analysis of the Cruise Ports on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica Luis Morales and Lawrence Pratt 76 Click here
Tourism Industry Perspectives George Soriano 48 Click here
Annex 1: Tourism Industry Perspectives George Soriano and CREST 2 Click here
Annex 2: Tourism Industry Perspectives George Soriano and CREST 3 Click here
Annex 3: Tourism Industry Perspectives George Soriano and CREST 3 Click here
Marco Legal y Estructura Institucional del Desarrollo Turístico e Inmobiliario en la Costa Pacífica de Costa Rica Jorge Cabrera and Shirley Sánchez 57 Click here
Impactos Ambientales de los Desarrollos Turísticos y Residenciales Erick Vargas Campos 167 Click here
Press Perspectives George Soriano and Mercadeo Verde Consultores S.A 34 Click here
Incentives for Retirement & Investment in Costa Rica Leland Baxter-Neal 17 Click here
Impact of Tourism Related Development on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica Martha Vega 25 Click here
Dinámica Territorial del Desarrollo Turístico Costero: Síntesis, Conclusiones y Recomendaciones TT Argos 40 Click here
Social and Environmental Effects of Ecotourism in the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Punta Islita Case Angelica M. Almeyda Zambrano, Eben N. Broadbent and William H. Durham 2 Click here
Toward Sustainable Coastal Tourism in Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio Case Study William H. Durham 2 Click here
Social and Environmental Effects of Ecotourism in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica: the Lapa Rios Case. Angelica M. Almeyda Zambrano, Eben N. Broadbent and William H. Durham 23 Click here


"Global Trends in Coastal Tourism", a study funded by WWF

In 2007, CREST (then CESD) was commissioned by the Marine Program of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, DC to analyze the current global trends in coastal tourism. The goal of the study was to test WWF’s working hypothesis about the main drivers behind coastal and marine tourism, and then to propose what interventions would be most useful should WWF develop a new tourism program. This study examines the structure of the tourism industry, the main types of tourism, the impacts (economic, environmental, and social) of marine and coastal tourism and the global trends in tourism development, financing and marketing. It also analyzes coastal and marine tourism in several key regions identified by WWF as being of the highest priority due to the diversity of life they support, the threats they face, and WWF’s ability to have a positive impact on them over the next decade. This extensive report of our findings concludes with recommended interventions that WWF could take as a way to begin addressing the threats that coastal tourism development poses to biodiversity conservation and the well being of destination communities.

Download the full report (English) (PDF, 140 pp.)
Download the executive summary (English) (PDF, 7 pp.)
Download Appendix I: Regional Report on East Africa (PDF, 35 pp.)
Download Appendix II: Regional Report on Central America (PDF, 50 pp.)
Download Appendix III: Regional Report on Coral Triangle (PDF, 39 pp.)

"Cruise Tourism Impacts in Costa Rica and Honduras: Policy Recommendations for Decision Makers"

Since early 2005, CREST (formerly CESD), in partnership with INCAE Business School of Costa Rica and Environmental Defense, has been taking a close look at cruise tourism in Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Costa Maya, Mexico. Through thousands of cruise passenger surveys and several hundred interviews with those directly involved in the tourism industry, the Center has collected data on cruise toursim's economic social and environmental impacts. Careful analysis of firsthand views, combined with detailed review of the industry's economic data, indicate a real need for improvements to the way cruise tourism is typicaly handled throughout the region.

Download the full report in English (PDF, 78 pp.)
Download the full report in Spanish (PDF)

"Cruise Tourism in Belize: Perceptions of Economic, Social and Environmental Impacts"

This study of perceived impacts of cruise tourism was made possible through a partnership between CREST (formerly CESD), the INCAE Business School of Costa Rica, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), and Belize’s Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT). The study examines the terrestrial impacts – economic, social and environmental – of cruise tourism as they are viewed in Belize. It is based on field research, carried out in 2005 using academic protocols, involving over 600 surveys with cruise passengers and over 100 interviews with a range of stakeholders in Belize. Through analysis of cruise passenger and exit surveys (the latter conducted in 2003 by the Belize Tourism Board and Central Bank of Belize), the study compares spending patterns, activities, perceptions and preferences of cruise and stayover visitors. It also compares the history, policy making, and public debate around cruise tourism and ecotourism, while comparing the two with respect to employment, taxes, and generated public revenue.

Download the Full Report (PDF, 143 pp.)
Download the Executive Summary (PDF)

To purchase a publication, please contact David Krantz: