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      The use of choice experiments in the analysis of tourist preferences for ecotourism development in Costa Rica.

      Journal of Environmental Management

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          Many nations promote nature-based tourism in order to promote the dual goals of nature conservation and income generation. To be most effective in providing services that facilitate achievement of these goals, decision makers will need to understand and incorporate tourist preferences for nature appreciation, infrastructure, use restrictions, and other attributes of national parks and protected areas. This paper presents the use of choice experiments as a mechanism to analyze preferences of national and international tourists in relation to the development of Barva Volcano Area in Costa Rica. In this section of the Braulio Carrillo National Park, managers are faced with an immediate need to plan for greatly increased visitation rates due to a new road, which will greatly improve access. Choice sets were developed in collaboration with park managers. A survey was conducted of 171 Costa Rican and 271 foreign tourists who visited Poás Volcano, a well-visited alternative site to Barva Volcano. Survey data was analyzed using conditional multinomial logit models. Results of the study demonstrate, that both sets of tourists preferred: (i) improved infrastructure; (ii) aerial trams with observation towers and picnic areas; (iii) more information; and (iv) low entrance fees. Foreign tourists demonstrated strong preferences for the inclusion of restrictions in the access to some trails, whereas Costa Ricans did not show any significant preference for restrictions. Marginal willingness-to-pay for greater information was estimated to be $1.54 for foreign tourists and $1.01 for Costa Rican visitors. The study concludes that choice experiments are a useful tool in the analyses of tourist preferences for the development of protected areas in developing countries.

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