The Role of Traditional and Indigenous Women in Ecotourism in Belize


Bryden Johnston

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Ecotourism has been implemented in many countries as a form of economic development that also protects the natural environment. Belize is a popular ecotourism destination due to the relatively pristine condition of its environment. The goal of this research was to look into how traditionally underrepresented groups, Maya (indigenous), Creole and Garifuna (traditional) women are involved in ecotourism in Belize. This research sought to answer four questions: (1) Does ecotourism provide job opportunities for indigenous and traditional women? (2) What are these opportunities? (3) How do women become involved? (4) Do women have options? These questions were answered through interviews with women involved in ecotourism. Ecotourism was found to provide job opportunities for the interviewees. The women interviewed worked as tour guides, cooks, cleaners, and hotel and restaurant owners. Other interviewees participated in ecotourism through women?s groups, wildlife sanctuaries and home stay and bed and breakfast programs. Most of the women did not occupy managerial positions, possibly showing limitations of ecotourism. The majority of the interviewees obtained their jobs through connections and consequently saw there to be no challenges in obtaining their jobs. This could show that obtaining jobs in ecotourism is difficult for women who do not possess connections. Many of the interviewees responded that there was no alternative to their job in ecotourism. While opportunities in ecotourism do exist for Maya, Creole and Garifuna women in Belize, it may be their only option.


Gretchen North




The Paul K. & Evalyn E. Cook Richter Trusts - International Fellowship

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