Neglect of biological riches: the economics of nature tourism in Nepal
- Cite this article as:
- Wells, M.P. Biodivers Conserv (1993) 2: 445. doi:10.1007/BF00114046
Nepal's spectacular parks and reserves have attracted dramatically increasing numbers of foreign visitors. It might be expected that these protected areas would be nurtured as valuable and irreplaceable economic assets. However they are becoming seriously degraded and the financial resources provided for their management have been inadequate. This paper explores why — starting with the hypothesis that so little of the economic value of protected area tourism in Nepal is captured through fees and other charges assessed on foreign visitors that the protected areas are perceived as being of inconsequential value. It is conservatively estimated that $27 million of tourists' total expenditure in Nepal were attributable to the protected area network in 1988, when the costs of managing the parks were less than $5 million but direct fees colleeted from tourists visiting the protected areas amounted to less than $1 million. These figures suggest the parks are a good investment. But it could also be argued that the costs of park management were more than five times the revenues collected by the government from park tourists. Policy measures are identified which could help Nepal increase the economic as well as environmental benefits from nature tourism.
Case studies of Nepal's most-visited protected areas emphasize that the lack of funds for protected area management is not the only constraint on effective management. Some important economic and institutional interests have yet to be effectively reconciled with conservation in the protected areas. Most problematic are local people's economic aspirations and the operating practices of the principal government agencies involved — the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and the Ministry of Tourism. Fortunately there have recently been some encouraging signs of change within both of these agencies.