QCOSTARICA – Noticing a lack of outdoor recreation in underdeveloped areas, Carter Hunt, a Penn State assistant professor in recreation, park and tourism management, travelled to Costa Rica to focus his research primarily on how tourism supports enviroment conservation.
“It was really tourists, international tourists coming from the outside that were visiting those parks and providing support for the preservation and conservation of those areas,” Hunt said
“We’re trying to find out how tourism works in a way that supports the conservation of environments,” Hunt said.
Hunt has worked on two principal projects in communities within Costa Rica. The first focused more on comparing household incomes of individuals who worked in tourism with those who did not, Hunt said.
“We found those working in tourism, making almost twice as much money in most cases as individuals and significantly more as a household even though living expenses were relatively the same,” Hunt said.
A few years later in a separate project, Hunt researched the opportunities tourism brought to the individuals of those communities. Additionally, Hunt looked at the effects of the lack of tourism in certain areas and how those communities found other sources of income.
Hunt said he researched the effects these other activities had on both the environment and sustainability.
Erick Vargas, a national coordinator for Iniciativa Osa y Golfito, an initiative to generate a living process for sustainable development led by Costa Ricans, according to INOGO’s website, said academic researchers like Hunt play a very important role.
“[They] help us understand the reality; in this case, the reality is how the local people perceive the world, how they perceive themselves, how they perceive their limitations and their opportunities,” Vargas said. “This kind of work…is extremely important for us because it allows us [to have] input we can use to provide practical solutions for the challenges of these people.”
The research conducted by Hunt has pointed out improvements that need to be made with communication, Travis Bays, regional coordinator at INOGO, said.
“It’s helped us better understand gaps in communication between communities,” Bays said.
After having visited Costa Rica approximately 10 times since 2008, Hunt will be continuing his work abroad in Tanzania this summer.
“I’m hoping to go back to [South Africa] in the spring as well,” Hunt said. “[The Tanzania and South Africa trips] are a little bit more educational and less research-oriented, but you never know when research opportunities might materialize out of those experiences.”
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