|All that Glitters is not Gold - Balancing Conservation and Development in Venezuela's Frontier Forests (WRI, 1998, 60 pages)|
|IV. Who Benefits from Economic Activities in Forests?|
Of all the parks and natural monuments in Bolivar and Amazonas, only Canaima National Park charges entrance fees to visitors. Revenues from entrance fees and concession contracts contribute only 10-15 percent of operating costs.214 According to park policy, visitors to the western portion of Canaima pay $4.15 each, and in the eastern portion visitors pay approximately $1.00 per vehicle or $2.00 per visitor entering on foot.215 In contrast, visitors to one of Venezuela's internationally known marine parks, Archipielago Los Roques, pay $2.00 for nationals and $10 for foreigners.216 Concessions are normally given to airlines, lodges, and tourist guides to operate within park boundaries, but they are granted as a result of private agreements between INPARQUES and the company in question, rather than through an open bidding process, and there are no fixed fees or royalties.
Visitor- and user fees can provide significant revenue for conservation activities within national parks. The Saba Marine Park in the Netherlands Antilles has raised revenues from visitor entrance fees, user fees levied on divers, souvenir sales, and donations. In 1991, the park raised 81 percent of its budget through a combination of these activities.217 Surveys also suggest that visitors are willing to pay significantly more in fees when they are aware that their contribution will help fund the parks.218 While studies of visitors' willingness to pay are generally hypothetical, evidence suggests that they do indeed pay more for unique natural experiences. For example, in 1987, the privately run Monteverde Cloud Preserve in Costa Rica was charging entrance fees of $2.75, four times greater than the $0.65 fee charged at national parks.219 Despite its higher fees, the reserve's visitation days more than tripled between 1980 and 1985.220
Visitor and user fees can provide significant revenue for
conservation activities within national parks.
Currently, only Archipielago de Los Roques differentiates its fees to distinguish between national and foreign visitors. Because Canaima is at least as popular as Archipielago de Los Roques, it stands to reason that foreigners would be willing to pay similar fees, especially since getting to Canaima is more costly than going to Los Roques.221A survey conducted in two of Venezuela's most well-known marine parks indicated that Venezuelans would be willing to pay $3.35 per visitor, an increase of $2.10 over what they are currently charged. Other options for capturing revenue also exist (see Box 13).222
13. CAPTURING BENEFITS FROM VENEZUELA'S NATIONAL PARKS
Although Venezuelans are conscious of the value of their national parks, few benefits from user- or entrance fees are captured. For example, in 1996, the annual operational budget for the eastern sector of Canaima was $1,171, not including money allocated for personnel. Besides raising park fees, Venezuela has several options to generate additional revenue from the use of its parks:
· RE-EVALUATE FEES PAID ON WATER AND ELECTRICITY. Protection of watersheds is an important function of Venezuela's parks. The government could apply a portion of fees charged on water, irrigation, and hydroelectric utilities to national park management.
· STANDARDIZE ROYALTIES FOR TOURIST AGENCIES AND OTHER CONCESSIONAIRES OPERATING WITHIN PARK BOUNDARIES. Concessions could be opened to public bidding, and fees generated from concession agreements could be applied to park management.
· CHARGE VISITORS FOR SIDE SERVICES. Such services include guided tours, providing information about the park, or selling souvenirs.
· SEEK CONTRIBUTIONS FROM PRIVATE CORPORATIONS. National and international companies operating in Venezuela could be given a modest tax credit for contributing to park management.
· LAUNCH A PUBLIC INFORMATION CAMPAIGN. Through television and newspapers, an information and education campaign could raise consciousness on the importance of protecting national parks.
Sources: C.J. Sharpe and I. Rodriguez, 'Discovering
the Lost World: Canaima National Park and World Heritage Site, Venezuela,"
George Wright Forum (Vol 14, 1997), pp. 15-23; L. Antillano, "Evaluación
de la Gestión del Ministerio del Ambiente y de los Recursos Naturales Renovables
en Materia Ambiental y de Ordenación Territorial," report for Senate
Environment Commission (Caracas,