The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Aruba

Aruba’s natural capital value for tourism, culture, fishing and carbon exceeds US$ 287.3 million per year.

ARUBA, an island of 115,000 human inhabitants and a myriad more animals, plants, bacteria and other fantastic organisms, is a gem in the Caribbean Sea. Located in the Lesser Antilles, outside of the hurricane belt, it enjoys a great, calm, warm climate. In combination with beautiful, white beaches, natural mangroves, forests and saliñas, this has turned Aruba into a very popular tourist destination.

Aruba depends on tourism

Direct contributions of tourism account for 28.6% of total GDP. When combined with indirect, this reaches 88.1%, expected to reach97.4% by 2027.

Tourism depends on natural capital

A natural capital assessment of tourist expenditures derived US$ 269 million in value. The growth, employment benefits and economic rewards of the tourism industry are related to Aruba’s environmental attributes.

Environmental degradation could lose 50% of visitors

This report estimates the value of several ecosystem services to residents and tourist on Aruba by answering various research questions about the role of natural capital on the island.

Aruba’s welfare could halve if its marine environment degraded

A tourist exit poll of 584 surveys showed that between 45% and 55% of visitors would not return if there would be terrestrial, marine, or beach degradation.

Half of all 1.6 million visitors also indicated that they were prepared to pay additional fees for improved nature protection on the island.

Tourists are willing to pay US$ 10.3 millionper year

Aruba’s small population relies and depends upon many different services provided by its ecosystems. The small fishing industry on Aruba provides its related natural capital with a value of US$ 4.45 million.

Aruba’s local population values highly its natural surroundings: residents are willing to pay for an increased sized marine protected area. Also, increased fish catch, and natural areas, were indicated as priority services.

Residents willing to pay US$ 3.6 millionfor protection

Whilst the majority of Aruba’s residents are not bothered by the increase in visitors, over 80% of want natural history and cultural heritage to be taught in schools. They want to see a larger share ofgovernment budget going towards nature protection.

Carbon sequestration value on the island is estimated to be worth nearly US$ 109,000 per year. This is largely due to the tropical dry forests in the northwest of the island.

illegal fishing derives over US$ 2.1 millionin natural capital value

Recreational fishing activity on Aruba derives 36% of the value of fishing-related natural capital. However, the largest beneficiary is the illegal industrial fishing industry. Nearly 50% of the value is attributable to foreign industrial fishing in Aruba’s waters.

When considering the size of the tourism sector relative to Aruba’s GDP alongside the sector’s dependency on the environment, it is clear that any development plan must seriously consider the role of natural capital.

Value maps were also created for several services. As seen above, points of recreational interest for local residents are spatially analysed. These can provide input for spatial development plans and conservation programmes.

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