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close this bookEcotourism and other Services Derived from Forests in the Asia- Pacific Region: Outlook to 2010. (FAO - Forestry, 1997)
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Open this folder and view contents4.1 Preserving Services Derived from the Forest: Protected Area and Social Forestry Approaches
View the document4.2 Need for Increased Research and Utilization of Results
View the document4.3 Importance of Social Issues in Management
View the document4.4 Continued Funding Difficulties in Natural Areas
View the document4.5 Ecotourism Management: Low Level of Funding and Reliance on Simplistic Strategies Like Carrying Capacity
View the document4.6 Growth in International and Domestic Visitation
View the document4.7 Change in the Visitor Market
View the document4.8 Continued or Increased Competition, Particularly for International Visitors
View the document4.9 Importance of Interpretation
View the document4.10 Importance of Partnerships Among Ecotourism Actors
View the document4.11 Greater Private Sector Roles in Management of Natural Areas
View the document4.12 Pressure to Use Natural Areas for Activities that are Not Nature-Dependent
View the document4.13 Professionalization of Operators and Desire to Exclude Those Not Meeting Professional Criteria
View the document4.14 Tendency for Dominance by Larger Operators and Those Located in Regional or National Centres
View the document4.15 Summary of Issues, Trends, Implications, and Options

4.4 Continued Funding Difficulties in Natural Areas

Issue/trend: There has been a trend in many countries of stable or decreasing government funding for natural area management, despite increased pressure on these areas, including increased visitation (Eagles 1995; Reynolds 1995). This imbalance between available resources and management needs may lead to deterioration at many natural areas.

To varying degrees, developing countries in the region have benefited from bilateral or multilateral (e.g., GEF) funding for natural area management. Moreover, economic growth in many countries may lead to increased financial and political support for natural areas in the future. Of course, this will vary across countries, in part based on varying levels of economic development. For example, funding for natural area protection and management is more likely to increase in Malaysia than in Burma or Laos.

However, any increase in funding may be offset as expenses increase. In particular, ecotourism generates financial and non-financial costs for natural areas (Lindberg, Enriquez, and Sproule 1996). The historic and projected increases in ecotourism mean that these costs are likely to increase. However, ecotourism also provides a potential source of revenue. Though fees have been instituted or increased at various sites in the region, in general Asia-Pacific remains behind Latin America and Africa in terms of generating ecotourism-related funding for natural areas.

Options: Where the need for revenue outweighs other ecotourism objectives (such as the desire to provide open access to all visitors), visitor fees can be implemented/increased.

Collection and retention of fees not only increases available funding, but may also increase support for ecotourism amongst natural area managers. Many agencies responsible for natural areas have had strong conservation ethics of “resource protection” at all costs (see Section 4.3). Managers often are ambivalent and even hostile to the idea of tourism. This is made worse by tourist revenue being transferred to the central treasury. It is also reinforced by low budgets, few staff, and “all the tourist problems”. Thus, retention of fees at the local level probably would increase managerial support for ecotourism.

At the most basic level, ecotourism can help address natural area funding difficulties only when fees are charged and when they benefit the area financially, usually through retention of fee revenue directly by the area. A recent survey of protected areas around the world indicates that only about half of the areas responding to the survey collected fees at that time (Figure 4) (Giongo, Bosco-Nizeye, and Wallace 1994).

Figure 4: Revenues Sources Used By Protected Areas Developed and Developing Country Averages

Source: Giongo, Bosco-Nizeye, and Wallace (1994)

Though there has been a trend toward implementation of fees over the past several years, many areas still charge little or no fee. Moreover, it is common for revenues from fees that are charged to be directed back to the general government treasury, thereby providing no direct benefit to the natural area.

An example of a site that charges fees but receives little direct benefit is the Dinghushan Biosphere Reserve (DBR) in China. DBR received an estimated 13.5 million yuan (approx. US$1.7 million) in entrance and related fees in 1995. However, this revenue has made little contribution to reserve management, as only 5% is allocated to the management agency (most of the money goes to the local government tourism bureau). Thus, substantial revenue is generated, but the revenue primarily has contributed to infrastructure development by local government rather than to environmental interpretation, visitor management, or general reserve management.

It is worth noting that results of a visitor survey at DBR (Lindberg et al. 1997) indicate visitor support for a greater portion of entrance fee revenues to be dedicated toward reserve management, as opposed to local government. When asked how revenues from entrance fees should be distributed, 18% selected the “100% to conservation, research, and education” option while 43% selected the “75% to conservation... and 25% to construction for tourism” option. Both options would represent a substantial change to the current distribution.

A similar distribution situation was found in study of tourism at Tangkoko Duasudara Nature Reserve in Indonesia. Kinnaird and O’Brien (1996 cited in Brandon 1996) found that the Department of Forestry, which manages the reserve, receives only 2% of ecotourism revenues, and the reserve itself receives only a fraction of that.

Mt. Everest in Nepal, where the climbing fee is US$50,000, provides an excellent example of capturing potential fee revenue (Gurung 1996). Though few sites are able to charge such high fees, the distribution of revenue from this fee to conservation programmes serves as an example for other sites. In addition, a portion of the US$700 per person fee for ten days of trekking in the Mustang region of Nepal goes to conservation and development programmes, while the 1993 amendment to Nepal’s Wildlife Conservation Act provides for the distribution of 30% to 50% of protected area revenue to surrounding communities (Brandon 1996).

If it is determined that fees should be charged, there are various ways they might be applied, including:

· Entrance fee: collected when tourists enter the site.

· Admissions fee: charged for admission to a specific facility, such as a visitor centre.

· Use fee: charged for use of a specific object, such as rented equipment, or opportunity, such as a camping place.

· License or permit: like a use fee, this includes fees such as hunting or fishing permits.

· Sales and concessions: includes 1) profits from natural area sales of souvenirs, lodging and others goods or services, 2) license fees from concessions to sell these goods and services on site, and 3) revenues from licensing area logos and trademarks.

Experience in various countries suggests that:

· Fee systems will be most efficient if, within overall objectives, flexibility is provided for each site to implement the fee structure most appropriate to local conditions (that is, a single fee structure for the whole system may not be efficient).

· Earmarking at least a portion of fee revenues directly to the area collecting them (as opposed to the general government treasury) encourages efficient collection and enhancement of visitor experience quality.

· When fees are earmarked, this portion of the site’s income becomes dependent on cyclical variations in visitation, such that an endowment should be considered as a means to even out income over such variations.

· Multi-tier fee systems, in which some groups pay more than others, can be used to reduce concerns about equity; for example, foreigners might pay more than nationals, or pensioners might pay reduced fees.

· In areas with low visitation and/or multiple entry points, it simply may not be practical to collect entrance fees, though alternative systems (e.g., annual passes) can be used.

· The responsiveness of demand to fees may be reduced by “hiding” fees in larger expenditure items (such as by incorporating fees as part of the price of a whole tour) or by explaining the importance of fee revenue for maintaining the natural attraction.

· Often, there are opportunities for increasing non-fee revenues, such as through donation programmes or through souvenir sales.

Depending on how they are implemented (as well as on site characteristics and other factors), fees have the potential to significantly supplement traditional natural area funding

sources. If they are not implemented, ecotourism may make natural areas worse off because of the costs imposed by this activity.