The Application of Choice Experiments in the Analysis of Visitors' Preferences for Ecotourism Facilities and Services in Redang Island Marine Park

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper estimates the visitor's' preferences of ecotourism facilities and services in the Redang Island Marine Park (RIMP) by using choice experiments (CE). Personal interviews were conducted with a total of 298 visitors of RIMP. The visitors were asked to select the best of ecotourism facilities and services from a given set of alternatives. Investigation on the ecotourism facilities and services attributes were done on accessibility to RIMP, provision of interpretive trail, provision of information and extra package price. The conditional logit (CL) model was used to estimate visitors' preferences. Results of the study showed that visitor's preferences of facilities and services varied according to changes in attributes levels. Results of this study are important in assisting policy makers in the management and development of ecotourism facilities and services in RIMP. This study shows that choice experiments are useful tools in the investigation of visitors' preferences for the ecotourism facilities and services in marine park.

Keywords: Choice experiment, marine ecosystem, marine park, ecotourism, conditional logit, economic valuation, and conservation.

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I. INTRODUCTION

The introduction of a marine-based ecotourism activity is meant to meet two goals, namely, marine resources conservation and economic generation. The conservation aspects refer to the protection and conservation of marine resources for future use which focus on sustainable marine biological diversity. The marine park is the foundation of an ecotourism-based economic activity on an island. Increasing emphasis on ecotourism for generating revenue leads to developments in term of hotels and island resorts, supporting infrastructure and other facilities.

At present, Malaysia has 40 islands and the surrounding marine ecosystems have been gazetted as marine parks under the Fisheries Act 1985 (Department of Fisheries, 1996). The responsibility for the marine parks which was entrusted to the Ministry of Agriculture Malaysia was carried out by the Department of Fisheries under Marine Parks Division. However, after restructuring of the Ministry in 2004, the Marine Parks division was placed under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE).

The primary goal of the establishment of marine parks is to provide an area for the protection and conservation of marine resources and habitats. Marine parks are able to contribute to these objectives through the conservation of critical habitats and biodiversity, the prevention of overfishing, the maintenance of habitat continuity, and the maintenance of essential ecological processes. The benefits of their establishment are felt not only by direct users such as fishermen, but also by a wide range of users who experience increased opportunities as a result. These include nature lovers, tourism operators, researchers and scientists.

The purpose of this study is to investigate visitors' preferences of the ecotourism development in Malaysia marine parks in order to help develop management policies that can enhance ecotourism contribution towards sustainable development and conservation in Malaysia. This assessment of the ecotourism development in marine parks in Malaysia is important as the development fulfils the requirements and preferences of the visitor through the concept of ecotourism. At the same time, it is necessary for sustainable ecotourism development and biodiversity conservation in marine parks to be monitored and documented in archives.

Ecotourism Development in Redang Island Marine Park

Redang Island Marine Park (RIMP) is situated in South China Sea and is located approximately 24.28 nautical miles or 45 kilometres from the northern state of Terengganu, Malaysia. It is located between latitude 5° 44' and 5° 50' north, and longitude of 102° 59' east. This marine park comprises the main island of Pulau Redang, which is associated with eight islets. …

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