You never know the impacts of tourism until it is gone: A case study from the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua

Authors: Matthew Taylor*, University Of Denver
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Latin America
Keywords: tourism, Nicaragua
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the ten years prior to 2018, tourism along Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast boomed. Large stretches of land were purchased for short-stay and long-stay tourism. The lives of over 200,000 local residents were transformed as they shifted their livelihoods from to the new tourism-based economy. A few studies documented the shift in land ownership, control over resources like water, and the impact of tourism on fishing spaces as a new culture of tourism dominated local lives. Those studies did not nail down the complexity of the impacts simply because the change was so rapid and unregulated. The fast pace of change also meant that the impacts had yet to be processed by local residents as positive or negative. That has all changed now with the complete absence of tourism resulting from Nicaragua’s political turmoil that began in April of 2018. The impacts that tourism had on local economies and livelihoods is now clearly marked and felt by its absence. Results of in-depth interviews show that tourism permeated all aspects of daily life and locals, despite their loss of land and control over resources, benefitted economically from tourism. They say so. Now they skip breakfast, unplug fridges, let lawns grow long, dip into savings to survive, and queue to obtain permission to migrate. More than anything, they long for the return of tourists. Very few residents view the absence of tourism and a return to pre-tourism lives (if they have the land to do so) as a positive aspect in their lives.

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