The tourism value of nature on Saba (policy brief)

Policy Brief

The Challenge
The tourism industry is the most important source of income for Saba, which is marketed as “the Unspoiled Queen” of the Caribbean, referring to the pristine natural beauty and tranquillity on the island. The island offers a range of touristic activities that depend on the quality of the natural environment, such as diving and snorkelling and participating in land activities, especially hiking. The Saban Government published the Tourism Strategic Plan in 2011, in which the desire to double the tourism sector before 2020 is expressed. However, the economic value of the contribution of nature to tourism on Saba has not been quantified sufficiently. It is essential that the economic value of the ecosystem services to tourism as well as the impact of tourism on ecosystems is determined. This information creates understanding creates an understanding of the crucial interconnectivity of the economy and the environment and supports sustainable economic development on Saba.

The Approach
To determine the value of the ecosystems for the tourism industry, a survey among visitors was conducted on Saba. This study reveals the average expenditures of these visitors, as well as their Willingness-To-Pay (WTP) for protection of ecosystems and historical heritage. The result of this survey also elucidates tourists’ perceived value of different aspects of nature on Saba. The socio-economic value of the ecosystem services is combined with spatial data to determine the parts of the ecosystems that are most valuable with regards to tourism.

The annual expenditures by tourists on Saba are found to be approximately $30 million. Around 70% of these spendings can be attributed to the natural environment. Marine ecosystems are found to be slightly more economically significant than terrestrial ecosystems on the island. A high WTP for nature management indicates that there is an opportunity to increase the nature fees on Saba. Tourists are also willing to pay for additional management of the island’s historical heritage. 

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