International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Cynthia Caron


The Bocas del Toro archipelago of Panama has seen a rapid growth in its tourism industry since the 1990s. From a neoliberal perspective, tourism development is beneficial for all. Alternatively, I analyze the recent, rapid tourism development in Bocas from a critical development theoretical perspective, identifying its positive and negative implications, as well as who they accrue to. While there are economic benefits to tourism in Bocas, only foreign investors, the Panamanian government and English-speaking residents appear to earn them. The Bocas residents, and indigenous Ngöbe residents in particular, suffer from a range of economic, sociocultural, environmental and land access challenges stemming from tourism that exacerbate and create new forms of inequality. In order to achieve socioenvironmental justice in Bocas, a sustainable, community-based ecotourism alternative should be considered.



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