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Revista interamericana de ambiente y turismo

versión impresa ISSN 0717-6651versión On-line ISSN 0718-235X


ZUMBARDO MORALES, Félix. Managing visitors and the tourists’ attention in protected coastal areas. Load capacity study in Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica. Rev. interam. ambient. tur. [online]. 2017, vol.13, n.1, pp.68-90. ISSN 0717-6651.

In a protected natural area, a load capacity study must use a systemic approach as the basis for the planning process. Load capacity is determined as the number of visitors who can visit a tourist zone without putting the area’s natural resources at risk. The main objective of this investigation was to determine the load capacity in the case of the Marino Ballena National Park, located in Puntarenas Province in Costa Rica. The work methodology was mixed, conducting quantitative and qualitative analyses at different stages. Tools such as the interview, (participant and non-participant) observation, working field trips, photographic records, analyses in geographic information systems, analyses of aerial photographs and multispectral images, analyses of the management plans, spatial relations between the protected areas and their areas of influence and adjustment of load capacity methodologies to the characteristics of the zone were used. The results show the need to invest in personnel and infrastructure for the suitable attention to tourism, without diminishing the conservation goals of the site. The maximum number of visitors for the four park entrances was determined and maps were drawn indicating the sites to place new lavatory facilities and watchtowers. An important implication of this work is that load capacity studies, limits of acceptable change or visitor management in protected areas must adapt to the conditions of the systems where the analyses will be applied.

Palabras clave : Protected natural area; load capacity; tourist zone; conservation; visitor management.

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