Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Barbara Carmichael

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become influential development actors in the developing world over the last two decades and are becoming increasingly involved in “sustainable” activities. However, there has been little attention given specifically to how NGOs impact sustainable development through particular development activities such as tourism and if the organizations themselves are sustainable. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to address this shortcoming in the development literature by undertaking a comprehensive study that analyzed the role of NGOs in the tourism sector in Belize. The research utilized a qualitative approach and employed descriptive survey techniques along with an extensive case study literature review to systematically delve into a cross-section of NGO and tourism related issues. Various key informants within the NGO, government and international agency sectors in Belize were surveyed and their perspectives and opinions on NGOs, tourism and sustainability were sought and analyzed. The research was theoretically influenced by action research in that the study provides baseline information for research subjects to inform and enhance their work and to possibly undertake further investigative studies that would have both research and action outcomes. The research results show that NGOs play a crucially important role not only in the tourism sector in Belize but in the development of the country in general. Sustainability concerns within the tourism sector, based on the interviewee responses, were primarily of a socio-economic rather than an environmental nature. Furthermore, NGOs, while considered important development agencies in Belize, were also identified as being vulnerable due to financial and human resource constraints, lack of coordination and the inability to influence state policy on a sustained basis. Nevertheless, ideal tourism stakeholder roles in the educational and planning/policy realms were identified in the research.

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