Community Participation in Tourism Development and the Value of Social Capital -the case of Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panamá
Tourism has become a major agent of transformation in every society and destination it has touched, and this change involves a price. Many communities, particularly in developing countries, are unaware of the costs and difficulties associated with this transformation of development. The purpose of this study was to explore the role and value of social capital in community tourism development. The study applies the concept of social capital to create an understanding of how a community constructs, perceives and participates in tourism development. Semi-structured interviews, focus groups and observations were conducted within a qualitative fieldwork. By comparing two different communities in Panamá, findings show how one village with strong social networks and cooperation for mutual benefits has initially developed community-based tourism. Whereas, in the other community local associations and engagement in collective efforts are either poorly limited or absent. Thus, communities with high social capital, together with capable agents, present better conditions to induce development. More importantly, the willingness of the community to participate and its ability to develop practical options needs to be implemented.
MSc in Tourism and Hospitality Management