Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Economic Benefits of Mountain Biking at One of Its Meccas: An Application of the Travel Cost Method to Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Economic Benefits of Mountain Biking at One of Its Meccas: An Application of the Travel Cost Method to Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah

Article excerpt

Statement of Problem

Mountain biking is a relatively new form of recreation compared to activities such as hiking, fishing, and snow-skiing. While these other activities have been studied and their economic benefits to the users estimated (Walsh, Johnson, & McKean, 1992), the authors are not aware of any published studies which have estimated the economic benefits of mountain biking.

It is essential to estimate the economic benefits of mountain biking for several reasons. First, mountain biking has the potential to conflict with other forms of recreation such as hiking and horseback riding, as these activities often use the same trails and these conflicts may increase due to mountain biking's popularity. Mountain biking can also impose special costs on a park such as repairing damaged trails and marking trails. It is essential to estimate the economic benefits of mountain biking to assist in trail allocation and for use in benefit cost analysis of mountain biking specific projects.

This paper uses an individual travel cost model (TCM) to estimate the economic benefits of mountain biking on the trails near Moab, Utah. There are two approaches to the travel cost method: the zonal and individual. The zonal TCM dates back to Clawson and Knetsch (1966). The zonal can be performed without extensive surveying of the visitors, all that is required is origin of visitors and annual number of trips taken. The individual TCM acknowledges that each visitor will have different trip costs, travel time, demographics, etc. and gathers information on each visitor in the sample via a survey. The individual TCM was first proposed by Brown and Nawas (1973).

The TCM is a revealed preference model, meaning it uses actual expenditures by the visitors to estimate a demand curve from which to estimate the benefits. The dollar value which is estimated is not paid by the visitor, but rather it is a dollar value which is retained by the visitor. The economic benefits will be measured in terms of consumer surplus, which can be defined as user willingness-to-pay over and above the actual travel expenditures (Siderelis & Moore, 1995, p. 345).

Research Methods

The basis of the TCM is that visitors will choose the annual number of trips to a recreation site based on the cost, both monetary and time, of traveling to the site. The number of trips will be inversely related to the travel cost (Loomis & Walsh, 1997). This idea is of great importance because with careful surveying of the travel costs and number of trips taken a demand curve can be estimated. Once the demand curve is estimated, calculating the net willingness to pay or consumer surplus simply entails adding up the areas below the demand curve and above the price for the various users of the site (Rosenthal, Loomis, & Peterson, 1984).

Several assumptions must hold for travel costs to be a proxy for price in the TCM (Freeman, 1993). The first of these is that the visitor is on a single-destination trip, meaning the travel costs were incurred to reach only the site in question. Mendelsohn, Hof, Peterson and Johnson (1992) have proposed a method for including multiple destination trips in the TCM, however it was for a zonal, linear application. For this paper, this assumption will be addressed through the survey design. Another assumption is that there is no net utility derived from the travel time. By adding a variable on travel time, this can be tested. If the coefficient on travel time is not positive, this assumption appears satisfied. While it is possible that the last part of travel, which was in the Moab area, does provide utility, overall it is felt this assumption will hold due to the long distance traveled (average was 525 miles for the entire sample). Another assumption that is sometimes alleged for the TCM requires consumers to respond to fees in a manner equivalent to travel costs; Bowes and Loomis (1980, p. 467) demonstrate this is not necessarily required. …

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