Nature-based Tourism and the Valuation of its Environmental Resources: Economic and Other Aspects
Nature-based tourism has grown in importance in recent decades, and strong links have been established between it and ecotourism. This reflects rising incomes, greater levels of educational attainment and changing values, especially in the Western world. Nature-based tourism is quite varied. Different types of such tourism are identified and their consequences for sustainability of their resource-base are briefly considered. The development and management of nature-based tourism involves many economic aspects, several of which are discussed. For example, one must consider the economics of reserving or protecting land for this type of tourism. What economic factors should be taken into account? Economists stress the importance of taking into account the opportunity costs involved in such a decision. This concept is explained. However, determining the net economic value of an area used for tourism is not straightforward. Techniques for doing this, such as the travel cost method and stated value methods, are introduced. Natural areas reserved for tourism may have economic value not only for tourism but also jointly for other purposes, such as conserving wildlife, maintaining hydrological cycles and so on. These other purposes, should be taken into account when considering the use of land for nature-based tourism. According to one economic point of view, land should be used in a way that maximises its total economic value. While this approach has its merits, it does not take into account the distribution of benefits from land use and its local impacts on income and employment. These can be quite important politically and for nature conservation, and are discussed. Finally, there is some discussion of whether fees charged to tourists for access to environmental resources should discriminate between domestic tourists and foreigners.
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