Protected areas are cornerstones of biodiversity conservation and are also the prime ecotourism destinations, covering 23.23% of land area in Nepal. Visitors pay a fee to get access to these areas. This entry fee has been the main source of park income, but remained constant for over two decades despite increased park-management costs. The Nepalese government wanted to increase the entry fee to these areas in accordance with visitors’ preferences. This project evaluates the willingness to pay of visitors to access Chitwan National Park and aims to suggest policy relevant information to the government for informed decision making.
The project is being implemented at Chitwan National Park, the most visited park in Nepal. A contingent valuation survey was developed and administered among three groups of visitors: domestic, regional (visitors from South-Asian countries), and other foreigners. In coordination with the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation and tourism entrepreneurs (Hotel Association at Sauraha), 20 representative hotels in Sauraha, the main gateway to Chitwan National Park, were identified. A sample of 300 foreign, 150 regional, and 150 domestic visitors who stayed in these hotels were interviewed to know their willingness to pay for increased park entry fee.
Every 10th visitor who checked-in to these hotels during June to September 2011 were provided with the research information brief. Contingent upon their acceptance to participate in the survey, a questionnaire was provided to participating visitors at the end of the visit. Collected questionnaires were coded and analysed to estimate the willingness to pay amount for park entry fee by visitor types and also to understand the factors affecting their willingness to pay. Using the information provided by the visitors, the total benefits (consumer surplus) derived from the visit to CNP was also estimated. Findings of the research was then provided to the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation for consideration to review park entry fee policy in Nepal.
- Dr. Maheshwar Dhakal, Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation