In Thailand, more than 80 forest reserves have been declared national parks – about 13% of the country’s land area. Besides serving a vital conservation role, these parks provide valuable recreational and educational opportunities for Thais and foreign tourists. Unfortunately, many Thai parks are under threat due to encroachment by local villagers, illegal human settlement, forest fires and soil erosion. National parks are also threatened by pollution generated both by villages located inside the parks and by visiting tourists. The costs of managing Thailand’s national parks are met through the government’s central budget, as well as by park entrance fees. But neither source provides sufficient resources to deal with the problems faced. Revenue from entrance fees is very low, since parks typically charge only five Baht per person (US$0.13 in 1998). These fees bear no relation to park services and facilities. The central budget is also limited since it must compete with other priorities like education, public health, and military spending. To see whether it was possible to improve the entrance fee system and so finance the conservation of the parks this study set out to see just what value visitors gave to the country’s national parks.
Thailand’s National Parks: Making Conservation Pay