Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 445–464

Neglect of biological riches: the economics of nature tourism in Nepal

  • Michael P. Wells

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.


economics ecotourism Nepal protected areas sustainable development tourism 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Banskota, M., Sharma, P., Sharma, S., Bhatta, B. and Tenzing, T. (1990)Economic policies for sustainable development in Nepal. Kathmandu: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).Google Scholar
  2. Brandon, K. and Wells, M. (1992) Planning for people and parks: design dilemmas.World Devel. 20, 557–70.Google Scholar
  3. Bunting, B.W., Sherpa, M.N. and Wright, R.M. (1991) Annapurna Conservation Area: Nepal's new approach to protected area management. InResident populations and national parks: Social dilemmas and strategies in international conservation (P.C., West and S.R., Brechin, eds) pp. 160–72. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dixon, J.A. and Sherman, P.B. (1990)Economics of protected areas: A new look at benefits and costs. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  5. ERL (1989)Natural resource management for sustainable development: A study of feasible policies, institutions and investment activities in Nepal with special emphasis on the hills. Report for ODA/World Bank. London: Environmental Resources Limited.Google Scholar
  6. Gurung, H. (1990) Environmental management of mountain tourism in Nepal. Paper presented at the ESCAP Symposium on Tourism Promotion in the Asia Region, Hangzhou, China.Google Scholar
  7. Healy, R.G. (1992) The role of tourism in sustainable development. Unpublished manuscript. Duke University.Google Scholar
  8. HMGN/IUCN (1988)Building on Success: the National Conservation Strategy for Nepal. Kathmandu: IUCN.Google Scholar
  9. Lehmkuhl, J.F., Upreti, R.K. and Sharma, U.R. (1988) National parks and local development: Grasses and people in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal.Environ. Conserv. 15, 143–8.Google Scholar
  10. Lindberg, K. (1991)Policies for Maximizing Nature Tourism's Ecological and Economic Benefits. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.Google Scholar
  11. McNeely, J.A. (1988)Economics and Biodiversity: Developing and Using Economic Incentives to Conserve Biological Resources, Gland: IUCN.Google Scholar
  12. Ministry of Tourism (1989)Nepal Tourism Statistics 1989. Ministry of Tourism: Kathmandu.Google Scholar
  13. Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (1988) Plan for the conservation of ecosystems and genetic resources. InForestry sector master plan (Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation). Kathmandu.Google Scholar
  14. Mishra, H.R. (1984) A delicate balance: tigers, rhinoceros, tourists and park management vs. the needs of local people in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. InNational Parks, Conservation and Development: The Role of Protected Areas in Sustaining Society (J., McNeely and K., Miller, eds) pp. 197–205. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  15. Nepal Rastra Bank (1989)Income and Employment Generation from Tourism in Nepal. Kathmandu: Nepal Rastra Bank.Google Scholar
  16. RGON (1992)National report to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development: Nepal. Kathmandu: Royal Government of Nepal.Google Scholar
  17. Rana, D.S., ed. (1990)Annapurna Conservation Area Project: Three Year Retrospective Progress Report. Kathmandu: King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation.Google Scholar
  18. Sharma, U. (1990) An overview of park-people interactions in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal.Lands. Urban Plan. 19, 133–44.Google Scholar
  19. Sherpa, M.N., Coburn, B. and Gurung, C.P. (1986)Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal: Operational plan. Kathmandu: King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation.Google Scholar
  20. Stevens, S.F. and Sherpa, M.N. (1992) Tourism impacts and protected area management in highland Nepal: lessons from Sagarmatha National Park and Annapurna Conservation Area. Paper presented at the World Parks Congress, Caracas, February 1992.Google Scholar
  21. Tobias, D. and Mendelsohn, R. (1991) Valuing ecotourism in a tropical rain-forest reserve.Ambio 20, 91–3.Google Scholar
  22. Touche Ross, in association with ERL, University of Surrey, New Era and METCON Consultants (1990)Nepal Tourism Development Programme (several volumes and appendices). Kathmandu: Asian Development Bank and Ministry of Tourism.Google Scholar
  23. Wells, M. (1992) Biodiversity conservation, affluence and poverty: mismatched costs and benefits and efforts to remedy them.Ambio 21, 237–43.Google Scholar
  24. Wells, M. and Brandon, K. (1992)People and parks: linking protected area management with local communities. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  25. Wells, M. and Brandon, K. (1993) The principles and practice of buffer zones and local participation in biodiversity conservation.Ambio 22, 157–62.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael P. Wells
    • 1
  1. 1.LierNorway

Personalised recommendations