This study estimates tourists’ Willingness to Pay (WTP) for an enhanced wildlife experience in order to inform policies and decision-making towards low-impact tourism in tiger reserves.
Demand for nature-based tourism, particularly tiger tourism, is on the rise in India. Low-impact tourism in tiger reserves has always been the primary goal for the State governments. To this end, this study aims to inform decision-making towards strategies and policies that ensure low-impact tourism in tiger reserves. Existing guidelines placed by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) focus on restricting tourism activities to align with the reserve’s carrying capacity estimates, and govern modalities of the safaris undertaken at the reserve. However, little attention has been paid by researchers, State governments and policy-makers in understanding and putting in place strategies and policies to meet the second set of NTCA guidelines, i.e. the modalities of the safari experience. This study seeks to fill this gap by focusing on the safari experience. Conducted in Bandipur, a major tiger reserve in the country, this study seeks to estimate tourists’ Willingness to Pay (WTP) for an enhanced wildlife experience.
The study took a qualitative approach to gather information on visitor profiles and expectations through in-depth one-on-one interviews. Willingness to Pay (WTP) for an enhanced safari experience was elicited and measured by presenting the visitor with hypothetical scenarios. The survey instrument and the hypothetical scenarios were designed based on extensive Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and cognitive interviews with a broad spectrum of tourists, Forest Department officials and owners/managers of tourist accommodation facilities. The questionnaire was divided into three sections, namely socio-economic data and past holiday patterns, visitation patterns to wildlife areas and tiger reserves; visitor expectations and ranking of the safari, and improvements to the safari experience; hypothetical scenarios and willingness to pay for improvements. A Dichotomous Choice (DC) format was used, wherein each respondent was provided by only one bid-value to accept or reject. Bid values were presented as total combined fees, higher than the current combined fees of INR 300, by increments of INR 50. For Scenario I, four bid amounts were used — INR 350, 400, 450 and 500 and under Scenario II, five bid amounts were used — INR 350, 400, 450, 500 and 550.
Results from this study provides insights into tourists’ willingness to pay for an enhanced safari experience. Insights from this project contribute to understanding and putting in place strategies and policies to meet the second set of NTCA guidelines, i.e. the modalities of the safari experience.