Economic valuation of protected areas : the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve case study.
Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve as a natural area preserved from the more disruptive forms of economic activity, provides a multitude of benefits classified as either on-site use values or non-use values . This research addressed the problem of estimating the recreation use value of Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve. Two methodologies for valuing non-market benefits, the travel cost and contingent valuation methods are applied to evaluate the economic value of the reserve . The study reviews recent literature and highlights particular methodological issues characteristic of these techniques. The data from an on-site survey in the area permitted a description of visitors' socioeconomic characteristics and their trip patterns. Visitor attitudes, both to the recreational activities in Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve and to the proposals for the improvements of recreation provision were identified. Travel cost method results showed significant statistical relationships between number of trips, travel costs and socioeconomic variables. The consumer surplus value was estimated to be R95 800 in 1998. The contingent valuation method produced a true annual willingness-to-pay of R66 336 for entrance fees expressed by day visitors. The analysis of data from overnight visitors in the cottages revealed that 63 % of visitors were willing to pay up to R75 per person per night. Finally, the research emphasized the importance and the potential use of economic value in assisting the development of economically sustainable policies for the provision of recreation. Whilst Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve is under no immediate threat, having an indication of the economic value of recreational opportunities within the reserve will aid future planning and decision-making.