Missing the forest for the trees? Incongruous local perspectives on ecotourism in Nicaragua converge on ethical issues

Carter Hunt, Amanda Stronza

12 Scopus citations


Recent writings on ethics in tourism do little to represent local hosts' perceptions of the ethical nature of tourism and instead focus primarily on the role of industry and tour operators. In this paper, we bring local perceptions to the fore in comparing the ideal and the real in ecotourism. Using ethnographic observations and interviews, we describe how local residents near an ecotourism lodge along the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua first perceive and assess the ideals and sustainability of ecotourism in locally-grounded, realistic ways, often taking into account the broader social, economic, and environmental context of Nicaragua. Though people tend to be highly critical of the operation, they also acknowledge many relative merits of the ecotourism project's work. We then focus on narratives related to the ethical performance of this project. Here, people were less generous in their remarks and found little about the ecotourism project to support. This analysis demonstrates how failing to capture critical local evaluations of ethical aspects of project performance allows greenwashing abuses to persist unchecked and, thereby, nullifies those elements which distinguish ecotourism from other forms of tourism. Future research and certification efforts must make a greater effort to assess local perceptions of ethical performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-386
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2011


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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