Presentation by Rebecca Zarger, E. Christian Wells, Ann Vitous, Eric Koenig, Christine Prouty, Paola Gonzalez and Maya Trotz at the 1st Belize National Research Conference, March 2018.
The authors have been studying the impacts of rapid tourism development to coastal areas and local livelihoods on the Placencia Peninsula between 2013 and 2017. This paper describes findings from ethnographic, environmental, and engineering science research to better understand the complex relationships between tourism development, water/wastewater management, and livelihoods in coastal areas (Wells et al. 2016). Methods of data collection included participant observation, surveys with community members and visitors, and 46-in-depth, semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders. Study findings indicate there is a tension between the scale of tourism preferred by many longer-term residents and other forms of intensive large-scale tourism development including cruise ship tourism. Rapid changes taking place in land ownership, infrastructure, types and locations of tourism construction, and diverging opinions about the scale of tourism development over the last 15 years (Alexander 2008; Boles et al. 2011), have affected daily life and the coastal environment through increased pressures from waste effluent, dredging, mangrove destruction, and negative impacts to coral reef ecosystems that many residents rely upon for their livelihoods. Many participants expressed concerns about losing the small-scale tourism that has historically characterized the peninsula and instead seeing more mass tourism, a product of growing foreign investment and environmental dispossession. In the conclusion of the paper we reflexively consider how the research focus and collaborations with local non-governmental organizations, communities, and other stakeholders changed over time (Prouty et al. 2017; Vitous 2017), emphasizing the need for more legitimate participation in decision making and ways to effectively co-produce and share project findings with community members and other groups.
Key words: environmental impact, tourism, Placencia, development