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Does Tourism Eco-Certification Pay? Costa Rica’s Blue Flag Program

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  • Blackman, Allen

    ()
    (Resources for the Future)

  • Naranjo, María Angélica
  • Robalino, Juan
  • Alpízar, Francisco
  • Rivera, Jorge

Abstract

Tourism associated with beaches, protected areas, and other natural resources often has serious environmental impacts. The problem is especially acute in developing countries, where nature-based tourism is increasingly important and environmental regulation is typically weak. Eco-certification programs—voluntary initiatives certifying that tourism operators meet defined environmental standards—promise to help address this problem by creating a private-sector system of inducements, monitoring, and enforcement. But to do that, they must provide incentives for tourism operators to participate, such as price premiums and more customers. Rigorous evidence on such benefits is virtually nonexistent. To help fill this gap, we use detailed panel data to analyze the effects of the Blue Flag Program, a leading international eco-certification program, in Costa Rica, where nature-based tourism has caused significant environmental damage. We use new hotel investment to proxy for private benefits, and fixed effects and propensity score matching to control for self-selection bias. We find that past Blue Flag certification has a statistically and economically significant effect on new hotel investment, particularly in luxury hotels. Our results suggest that certification has spurred the construction of 12 to 19 additional hotels per year in our regression samples. These findings provide some of the first evidence that eco-certification can generate private benefits for tourism operators in developing countries and therefore has the potential to improve their environmental performance.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-12-50.

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Date of creation: 08 Nov 2012
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-12-50

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Keywords: Costa Rica; eco-certification; propensity score matching; tourism;

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  1. Imbens, Guido W. & Wooldridge, Jeffrey M., 2008. "Recent Developments in the Econometrics of Program Evaluation," IZA Discussion Papers 3640, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Reinhardt, Forest L. & Stavins, Robert N. & Vietor, Richard H.K., 2008. "Corporate Social Responsibility Through an Economic Lens," Discussion Papers dp-08-12, Resources For the Future.
  3. Paul R. Portney, 2008. "The (Not So) New Corporate Social Responsibility: An Empirical Perspective," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(2), pages 261-275, Summer.
  4. Alberto Abadie & Guido W. Imbens, 2006. "Large Sample Properties of Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(1), pages 235-267, 01.
  5. Marco Caliendo & Sabine Kopeinig, 2008. "Some Practical Guidance For The Implementation Of Propensity Score Matching," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(1), pages 31-72, 02.
  6. Allen Blackman, 2010. "Alternative Pollution Control Policies in Developing Countries," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 4(2), pages 234-253, Summer.
  7. Bolwig, Simon & Gibbon, Peter & Jones, Sam, 2009. "The Economics of Smallholder Organic Contract Farming in Tropical Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1094-1104, June.
  8. Nicole Darnall & Joann Carmin, 2005. "Greener and cleaner? The signaling accuracy of U.S. voluntary environmental programs," Policy Sciences, Springer, vol. 38(2), pages 71-90, September.
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Cited by:
  1. S. Capacci & A. E. Scorcu & L. Vici, 2014. "Eco labels and tourism flows: How much is a Blue Flag worth?," Working Papers wp917, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.

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