By Mike McDonald
|While the upkeep of Costa Rica’s national parks has cost government ministries millions of dollars, the protected areas have proven lucrative for private enterprises.
In 2009, national parks and biological reserves generated more than $1.5 billion
for the Costa Rican economy, according to a study released on Thursday by the Center for Economic Policy for Sustainable Development, based at National University (CINPE-UNA).
More than 70 percent of this money went to tourism businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and transportation and travel agencies.
“Tourism is one of the most important sectors surrounding our national parks and protected areas,” said Gerardo Jiménez, director of CINPE-UNA.
The millions spawned by Costa Rica’s preserved plots accounted for 5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2009.
But the study, which included field research conducted at three national parks, found that Costa Rica and its citizens don’t always reap the bulk of the economic benefits.
In Rincón de la Vieja, a national park in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, 61 percent of the cash generated by the park leaves the country. It flows into the hands of international travel agencies and foreign tour operators.
Roughly 36 percent of the dividends go to national services, such as gas stations or the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute. A mere 2.2 percent of the income reaches local businesses around Rincón de la Vieja.
“We recommend that the country implement measures to increase this amount,” Jiménez said.
By contrast, almost all of the money generated by Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste stayed in Costa Rica. International travel agencies took home approximately 7 percent of the money while local businesses saw nearly 30 percent of the capital.
The rest of the funds from Palo Verde went to national tour operators or suppliers.
While 70.18 percent of earnings went to tourism related business, the energy sector saw 26.3 percent of the earnings generated by the parks and reserves. This figure includes the revenue produced by hydroelectric or geothermal plants that depend on resources inside protected areas.
The remaining money trickled into employment – 1.7 percent – and park and reserve entrance fees – 0.93 percent.