Assessment of the impacts of tourism development in coastal communities in Belize

Amy Diedrich, University of Rhode Island


The purpose of this study is to assess the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic impacts of tourism in coastal communities in Belize. In particular, the objective is to improve our understanding of how to promote tourism that provides maximum benefits to local people and the marine environment, while having minimal negative impacts upon them.^ A multi-method ethnographic approach was used to gather extensive qualitative and quantitative data from six coastal communities in Belize during the period of March--November 2005. The majority of the data were collected using survey instruments for local people and tourists. These data were analyzed statistically and substantiated with information collected using additional methods including participant observation and key informant interviews.^ The results of this research show that tourism development in Belize is having a positive influence on coral reef conservation awareness and support among local people. A positive correlation was also found between the level of tourism development and socio-cultural and economic impacts, both positive and negative. A comparative assessment of the characteristics and impacts of cruise tourists and overnight tourists suggested that, although cruise tourists are less environmentally aware, both types of tourism result in positive and negative impacts. Finally, the study highlights the important role of the marine recreation industry in minimizing tourism impacts on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.^ These findings illustrate that, as tourism develops in Belize, so do its associated impacts. Proportionately, the findings also suggest that, to date, the positive impacts are outweighing the negative. What is abundantly clear, however, is that Belize's image as an undiscovered ecotourism paradise is on the cusp of shifting into that of a mass tourism destination. Tourism in Belize has yet to pass the critical threshold where the natural and cultural resources become so degraded that it loses its competitive edge in the tourism market, an often irreversible situation that can be economically devastating. The key to Belize's future as a tourism destination will be to recognize the advantageous position it holds, where it still has the power to shape its future as a tourism destination through a mindful, monitored, precautionary approach to tourism development. ^

Subject Area

Geography|Environmental Sciences|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Amy Diedrich, "Assessment of the impacts of tourism development in coastal communities in Belize" (2006). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3239904.