The Tourism Value of Nature on St Eustatius
This study aims to value the services provided by nature to tourists on St Eustatius. The natural landscape, the coastal waters, the tranquillity and rich historical heritage are highly appreciated by tourists that visit the island. For most Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as St Eustatius tourism is one of the main sources of income. Healthy ecosystems are therefore crucial to the island. However, human development (including tourism) puts pressure on the same natural environment. In order to fully understand this paradoxical relationship, the economic value of the cultural and recreational ecosystem services to tourists and the economic contribution of nature to the tourism sector on St Eustatius are determined. Transparency about these values and the beneficiaries of ecosystem services can support the local and national government and other stakeholders in decision-making processes.
These values are retrieved using a choice modelling method. During six weeks, a total of 390 foreign visitors on Saba and St Eustatius have been interviewed. 190 of these respondents were interviewed on St Eustatius. With the use of a choice experiment, the willingness to pay (WTP) of tourists for the maintenance or improvement of nature and other island aspects is determined. The results also show the preferences of tourists concerning the different ecosystems and other island aspects. Characteristics, expenditures and perceptions about the natural environment of St Eustatius by visitors are retrieved through the complementary survey.
This study also reveals that next to nature-based activities, tourists highly appreciate island aspects such as the tranquillity, the friendly local people and admiring archaeological heritage. These aspects are part of the attractiveness of the island and should be taken into account when growth in the tourism sector is desired. The value of the natural environment for the tourism industry of St Eustatius is estimated to be almost 3 million USD per annum and tourists are willing to pay an annual 120,000 USD to increase the management of the archaeological heritage on the island.