Olmsted et al, Leveraging support for conservation from ecotourists: can relational values play a role?

Olmsted, P., J. Honey-Rosés, T. Satterfield and K.M.A. Chan (2019). “Leveraging support for conservation from ecotourists: can relational values play a role?” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 28(3): 497-514: 1-18. Url

Costa Rica is a global ecotourism destination, yet tourism growth has contributed to conflicts over water use. Given the potential for tourism revenue to address important environmental challenges, this study examined factors that influence financial support for conservation, evaluating the role of relational values both as an independent measure and comparing how tourists respond to “relational” program design features (where a personal connection is emphasized) to those without. A survey (n = 263) with a choice experiment revealed that tourists were willing to contribute US$18–52 to conservation depending on who administers the program, what it supported (water-related programs or biodiversity conservation), and where funds were allocated. Locally run programs at visited sites were most preferred, receiving the largest contributions. A mixed logit model analyzed the relationship between tourist identity, knowledge of a regional drought, values, and conservation preferences from the choice model. Relational elements, such as identifying as an ecotourist, led to larger contributions and were significantly and positively correlated with strong environmental values. The ecological motivation of many tourists to this area suggests that emphasizing relationships between nature and people may encourage conservation contributions, while providing opportunities to increase tourist awareness of the impact of their travel.