Date of Award

8-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Duram, Leslie

Abstract

Since the turnover of the Panama Canal from the U.S. to Panama, the Panamanian government has made increasing tourism to the country a high priority in order to increase foreign monetary revenue and the socio-economic status of the country's constituents. In 2008, the implementation of the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2007-2020 was instated. The Master Plan was designed to increase sustainable tourism to the country by international and national promotion and supplying tax incentives for tourism development investors. Panama has also taken strides to declare nine different parts of the country as Special Tourism Zones, that are recipients of multiple tax exemptions and tax holidays, according to Law No. 8, the tourism incentive law. Included in the nine zones is Bocas del Toro. This study examines the perceived effects of macro-scale national and international laws and programs on micro-scale ecotourism operations in Bocas del Toro. Research includes interviews with managers, owners and affiliates of seven micro-scale ecotourism operations in Bocas del Toro. The research methods provide insight into how the macro-scale laws and programs have effected, if at all, the micro-scale ecotourism operations in Bocas del Toro. The research reveals that there is a need for more cohesion among the governmental programs that are designed to aid in the promotion and support of micro-scale ecotourism operations along with the need for enforcement of environmental sustainability at the local level (Bocas del Toro). Although the implementation of the Master Plan is still in the early stage, progress can still be made in Panama in order to increase tourism and environmental sustainability in the country.

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