NERP TE Project 12.3 Relative social and economic values of residents and tourists in the WTWHA (JCU)

The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA) is famous for its wildlife, biodiversity and natural beauty, but none of these important assets are bought or sold in the market place, so none are explicitly ‘valued’ with a price. Recognising that absence of price does not mean absence of value, this project seeks to improve our understanding of the importance of these non-market ‘values’ to a variety of different stakeholders. How important is a beautiful view or a cassowary to the community, to tourists and to the tourism industry? How would people feel if there fewer (or more) opportunities to enjoy those beautiful views or to observe these charismatic birds? The project will provide environmental managers throughout the world with an illustrated, easy to understand, means of assessing the importance of these types of non-market values to a variety of different stakeholder groups in World Heritage listed forests and other scenic environments. This project will: 1. Develop a survey to assess the relative importance of core 'values' of the WTWHA (e.g. cassowaries, mahogany sugar gliders, waterfalls, aesthetics) with other ‘values’ (e.g. development of roads, employment, or income) so that managers are able to assess trade-offs between core WTWHA attributes and other ‘values’. 2. Distribute the questionaire to residents (householders) throughout the WTWHA and to tourists at the Cairns airport at different times of the year (to control for seasonality of data) in the form of an exit survey; 3. To analyse the results using multivariate analysis to measure the satisfaction and relative value across different stakeholder groups and to use insights from this analysis to identify priorities for conservation and marketing.

Today’s business leaders, managers and policy makers need information that helps them deal with complex problems affecting those living in and around World Heritage areas – be they in the Wet Tropics of Australia, or elsewhere. For example, they may need to answer questions such as: Would residents be happier, and/or would more tourists come to the region if there were more opportunities to enjoy a region’s non-market values (e.g. provide more opportunities to enjoy beautiful views and/or interact with iconic species)? What losses would different stakeholder groups suffer if development eroded some of the region’s values (e.g. if new roads affected aesthetic or biodiversity values)? How are preferences and priorities for these non-market values likely to change in the future? We do not have enough information to answer such questions in the WTWHA, and none of the currently available methods for attempting to measure non-market values in this manner are without flaws. This project will thus provide vitally important information that will help those in and around the WTWHA answer questions such at this. It will also help to improve methods for assessing non-market values (for use throughout the world).

Principal Investigator
Stoeckl, Natalie, Prof. School of Business, James Cook University (JCU) natalie.stoeckl@jcu.edu.au

Publications / Data