Examination of tourists’ willingness to pay under different conservation scenarios; Evidence from reef manta ray snorkeling in Fiji

Murphy, Shannon E.; Campbell, Ian; Drew, Joshua Adam

Wildlife-focused tourism is often considered as having the potential to play an integral part of threatened species conservation efforts, particularly through financial support. We focused on the direct financing of conservation by investigating tourists’ willingness to pay to snorkel with reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) at Barefoot Manta, an ecotourism resort in the Yasawa group of islands in Fiji. Our results indicate that 82.4% of people surveyed would be willing to pay a mean value of ~ USD $9.2 (SE 0.9) more than the current cost, a 28% increase. Also, 89% of people surveyed would be willing to pay a mean value of ~ USD $10.2 (SE 0.9) more for a hypothetical scenario where they would snorkel with 50% fewer people, a 31% increase. We also investigated tourists’ willingness to make voluntary donations to the local community above an existing payment of ~ USD $10 that is built into the current snorkel payment of ~ USD $32.5. On average, 91.3% of the tourists interviewed were willing to donate additional funds with an average additional donation of ~ USD $8.6 (SE 0.5) to the community to pay for educational and environmental support, an 86% increase. There were few significant relationships between willingness to pay and demographic factors (including age, income, nationality, education, and others), suggesting that willingness to pay was widely held by the tourist population staying at Barefoot Manta Resort. Together, these results indicate that wildlife-based nature tourism could represent a potential, but not unlimited, income source to fund conservation in the Yasawa group, Fiji islands, and that conservation can arise from partnerships between local communities and the tourism sector.

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Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
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September 21, 2018