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Margot McConnell

I thought that this study was a very interesting follow up to what we talked about in class on Wednesday. This paper and non-market valuation, in general, remind me a lot about what we talked about in Sustainable Development and what I did my presentation on when we added the additional SDG of “investment.” A lot of what I talked about has to do with NGOs and finding ways to fund conservation/sustainability efforts. Tourism in a lot of ways tends to increase pollution and so on for the environment, but it is also an important part of the economy for many countries such as Belize.
A way to increase funding especially in areas of high tourism that I honestly had not thought about 2 years ago when I did my research project is through exit fees through PACT. Because of this paper, I became curious in other exit fee programs and also, more generally, programs that look into the funding of conservation. One of the articles I read looked into different conservation efforts through tourism. For example, in Uganda, they use the proceeds from gorilla trekking permits towards conservation efforts. I would be curious to know if they raised the price of the permits, if people would still pay for it.
In an article published by Stanford, there is talk about how to increase conservation efforts to make it profitable, but how those plans are hard to put into place. This is a problem that I ran into when I was working on my project on sustainable investment. The ideas are there, but the implementation is what is lacking. Therefore, people are having to think about how to actually put these plans into action effectively as climate change and other environmental issues are continuing to rise.
In Africa specifically, there has been talk about reforming governance in order to include more sustainable efforts and help transform the economy towards more conservation. This lines up with a lot of what is being talked about by Marc Jacobson and others at Stanford in their plans to order to implement more sustainable sources of energy. The problem is that the money initially needed to invest is a lot and would probably require some sort of government involvement whether in the form of paid taxes or something else. I think it will be interesting moving forward to see how countries like Africa adapt in order to have a more conservation focused economy especially because of the levels of tourism in Africa these days.

Patrick Sullivan

The discussion around tourist’s willingness to pay and the impact that would have on tourism is an extremely important conversation to be having in regard to Belize and its economy. As the paper stated, nearly 30% of GDP is accounted for through various activities in the two unique marine biomes. The activity surrounding these biomes makes it extremely important to ensure that they are protected and well looked after in order to safeguard their environmental and economic benefits. The study was conducted in order to decide if the rise in prices matched the rise in consumers’ willingness to pay from the late 1990s. I found it interesting the way the questions were worded and how, in order to escape biased results, the interviewers made sure that certain aspects of the survey were clear. Finding that on average, tourists were willing to pay more for the enjoyment they got from using the biomes was an encouraging result for Belize. This went on to affirm their decision to raise the exit fee to $20 in 2017. This fact was also corroborated due to the increase in total tourist in the following year. Some questions I had about the study result more in their implementation rather than how the data was collected. Was the PACT aware of these results before they made the increase to the exit fee of $20, or was that number arbitrarily decided upon. Along those lines, if they had done the research and discovered that $20 was an appropriate amount, why would they not release those results to back up their decision. I think releasing data that corroborates your policy decision is a good means for stemming any backlash an organization or government may receive for certain policy decisions. Likewise, I think it would be beneficial in the future to progressively raise the cost from year to year or slightly longer. This would go a long way in stemming the tide of anger that comes from raising the exit cost drastically, as happened in 2017. If the price were raised slowly over time, then there would be significantly less uproar over prices and PACT would receive more funds annually. This idea hinges upon the fact that the tourists WTP was not steamrolled, and a reasonable price cap was found at some point in the future.

Nikki Doherty

It would be interesting to see if the average valuation of marine resources (or the maximum WTP) in Belize increased across the period of survey from 2012 to 2013 to 2014. If we maintain that as resources get scarcer, we attribute more value to them and are increasingly willing to pay more for them, then we should expect to see this trend in the stated maximums. If we do see the expected trend, should increases in tourist fees occur regularly over certain durations of time until we reach an optimal level of conservation? Might policy stipulate for a steadily increasing fee as WTP increases? If we do not see the expected trend, should we be skeptical of our valuation techniques or Belize’s tourist public awareness efforts? Regarding public awareness, we should also consider the findings that those who are first-time visitors to Belize are less likely to pay fees than those who have visited before. Under the assumption that if they visited Belize more than once they likely have more knowledge about the local ecosystem, these empirics suggest that information about Belize’s marine resources is part of the function determining one’s WTP for PACT. Findings also report that those who have knowledge about marine protected areas had a higher WTP. To stimulate and increase WTP among tourists, and increase funds for PACT, tourist centers like airports should spread information about the need for conservation.
Information is clearly a big component of the WTP equation when considering tourist’s awareness of fees before the survey. As the study finds, those who knew there was a lower fee, were willing to pay less (maybe due to anchoring bias) while those that were not reminded of the current fee value were willing to pay more. I wonder the extent to which visitors of Belize were aware of the exit fees before visiting the country. How big of a role do the fees play in their decision to travel there? If fees are considered, is it the existence of the fee or the actual price value of the fee that is the deterrent? This question could potentially be explored in future contingent valuation surveys by reminding survey respondents that an existing fee already exists, but not providing the prior fee price value. If fees increase over time perhaps we can we employ a travel cost approach to future gauge the direct use value of the marine ecosystem.
Survey techniques such as contingent valuation bring my mind back to a lot of biases (and wording we must be careful of to avoid) that I studied in past psychology and marketing classes. As the surveys were implemented during visitors time in Belize, I wonder how the US price relative to the prices they were acclimated to in Belize effected their reported accepted fee and perception of alternative choices (in other words, how does the Belize currency stack up against the US priced survey options). One thing I wish the article discussed was the answers reported to “why” the individual would be unwilling to pay an increased fee. I am also interested in how the inclusion of this question calling for self-reflection may have influenced respondents to change their original selection of no to say yes.
Overall, because high-end tourism is inelastic and a majority are willing to pay more, I think that we should implement fees in more ecological tourist destinations over time. If we lose some visitors, higher magnitudes of fees (such as the $20 in Belize) are likely still able to provide equal to more benefit than visitors lost.

Steven Black

There are a lot of interesting things to unpack in this paper, but I'll start with a minor point from the conclusion. It was stated that this study confirms past research that "price elasticity of demand for high-end tourism to be highly inelastic". I think that this could be an important point when trying to determine how to fund the conservation efforts in Belize. If someone is traveling internationally, they are most likely fairly wealthy, and their vacation is most likely going to cost over $1,000 if not several thousand. If someone is already spending that much on a vacation, I think the exit fee is going to be inconsequential to tourists and they would likely pay it no matter where the money was going. If the goal is the maximize contributions to PACT upon exit, the best way to approach that goal would be to determine how much people value a trip to Belize itself rather than just the ecosystems. From what I can tell, it looks like the fee is automatically included in most airline tickets. If someone has made the decision to travel to Belize, I do not think that a $20 fee attached to their flight would deter them at all. I think that people expect fees with flights (many countries have an exit fee up to $240) and the amount is rather inconsequential given the cost of the entire trip. An example from behavioral economics was a set of car mats that a dealership was selling for $550. Very few people were willing to pay $550 for car mats, but after purchasing a car that was, for example, $25,000, many people were willing to spend $25,550 to get the "upgraded" car mats, because of the different reference point in their decision-making process (spending $0 vs $25k). If someone's reference point was just the fee for conservation, $3.75, I would expect their WTP to be much lower than someone who was thinking of the cost of the whole vacation or even just the cost of the flight as a reference point. That might not reflect how much people would value the ecosystem but it would reflect how much they reference their vacation and would likely be greater. Since different people entering the country would have different WTP for their trip, you could account for that with different fees for different entry methods. For example, you could charge $20 to people entering by land, $40 to people flying economy, and $70 to people flying first class. That seems like reasonable amounts to pay and tourists probably do not care that much where the tax money goes.
To bring my discussion back to people's WTP for the ecosystem, I think understanding how to price park entrance fees are very important to the conservation effort. People visiting the ecosystems would likely be the ones to care about them more and would directly be benefitting from their existence. Therefore, these people would likely be willing to pay more than the average person. All in all, it is crucial to understand how people value the ecosystems and their experiences in them to be able to create an efficient market of taxes that raise money for their conservation.

Jack Citrin

I thought that this paper about raising the price of exit fees in Belize to help with conservation efforts was a very interesting dynamic. One specific term that caught my eye was "anchoring bias". In my social psychology class last term, we defined it as when an individual depends on an initial piece of information when making decisions. An example of this phenomenon can include estimating the amount of something. For instance if someone overestimates the amount of balls in a jar, the next person might also do the same. In this paper, it was found that people used the existing price of 3.75 dollars to determine their willingness to pay even though the survey told them that this effect would happen. Who wants to pay more for what they are already getting? I understand that conservation strategies are important. However it is unfortunate that trips to Belize are so costly and that these attached conservation fees further restrict visitors to only people with high incomes. It seems that all recreational activities such as scuba diving will continue to become more exclusive and more costly in the future.

Mikki Whittington

While I was reading this article, I found it interesting that the exit fee was held constant for twenty years. The number of tourists visiting Belize increased every year over this time period except from 2007-2009 (link at bottom). Considering the article and other articles have found that over half of tourists are American tourists, I would assume this two-year decline was due to the American housing market crash. Anyway, the article mentions in the introduction that the jump from $3.75 to $20 resulted in outcry from tourist industry providers, so I wonder why the Belize government did not just gradually increase the exit price over part or all of the 20 year time span. Tourism almost constantly increased, so it seems it would have been justifiable to gradually increase the exit fee, which likely would not have resulted in an outcry from the tourist industry providers. The exit fee could have been increased by less than a dollar each year over the twenty year time span or increased by $1.08 over 15 years to reach the current $20 exit fee. This would prevent tourist industry provider outcries because the providers would have seen that the number of visitors to Belize was continuing to increase (aside from 2007-2009) despite the gradual increase in exit fee.

Olivia Luzzio

Casey and Schuhmann raise several compelling questions in their investigation of tourist’s willingness to pay (WTP) fees to support conservation in Belize. Measuring tourist’s WTP appears to be an effective way to gauge tourist’s value of a natural resource like the beach and subsequently create a market for its preservation by setting fees accordingly. I found it interesting but reasonable that the group who was aware of the current $3.75 tourism fee was likely to have a lower WTP overall than the group that did not know the current fee. The current $3.75 fee influences the value tourist’s place on the environment in Belize. I am curious to see how this response group’s WTP is affected if they are told the fee is $20. It makes sense that WTP would increase under these circumstances. Furthermore, if a future response group was informed that previous tourists were willing to pay $34.60 on average, perhaps the WTP of those tourists would be even higher. This prospect then begs the question of at what point the rise in tourists’ WTP based on previous fees or other’s WTP flattens out.
This mechanism of creating a market for conservation appears to work in areas where tourists appreciate the environment often and in-person. However, preservation of areas near the poles and places less frequented by tourists proves much more challenging to market. While measuring option, bequest, and existence value of these places is a start, these measurements may not adequately account for the value of such ecosystems since people do not know the true extent of what they contain and provide.
Throughout high school, I travelled to the Dominican Republic on service trips and was required to pay a $10 tourist fee upon entry into the country. Visitors to the DR are not told what particularly the fee contributes to, which leads many to believe the fee is simply the corrupt government taking tourists money for no beneficial use. I believe countries would benefit from providing information about what tourist fees are going towards, as is the case with the PACT in Belize. Tourists would likely be less bothered by such costs if they knew their money was going towards impactful programs like conservation. This may also deter governments who are not putting the fees to good use to do so in order to continue competing with tourism in surrounding countries.

Noah Gallagher

I was really interested in this article, especially as a nice addition to our conversation on Wednesday. It makes sense to me that people who can afford to pay to fly themselves and their families to a foreign beach would be able and willing to pay a few extra bucks for conservation. Another thing to consider is whether or not tourists will even know there is a fee to use the beach. In many occasions, I would imagine that they would not until they arrived to the beach. At that point, they've traveled across the world and would likely be willing to pay a higher fee, even if it seems unfair (perhaps this is due, in part, to the sunk cost fallacy, but it nonetheless contributes to an individuals willingness to pay).

I do wonder if raising fees like this pushes out locals from utilizing local resources. I think of this in terms of the Colorado National Monument, roughly five minutes from my house. Over the past few years, they've been experementing with raising the entry fees a few bucks. While this might not be known to an out-of-town tourist, this adds up and makes a difference to the frequent user. Comparably, I would wonder if the increase from $3.75 to $20 would prevent the citizens of Belize from being able to use their own public goods.

Allie Case

While reading this paper, I kept thinking about the idea of "ideal tourism", if such a term does exist. I was wondering if the higher price would naturally correct how many tourists are there vs how many should be there. Once again coming from a somewhat biased point of view, I value the ecosystem over maximizing revenue from ecotourism. But naturally, I could see the benefit in increasing the price not just to generate more money for the PACT, but also by potentially limiting the amount of tourists. It seems from the paper that the amount of tourists was not affected by the fee increase. But I'm wondering if an even higher price could be seen as a "win win" in the sense that a higher price will still produce more revenue than the $3.75 fee, but also decrease the overall amount of visitors which, in turn, would also help the reef. Is there an "optimal level" of tourism then? Basically, which would ultimately help the reef more: increasing the money going towards conservation efforts, or decreasing the amount of tourists visiting the reef? It seems like maybe a higher exit fee could achieve both things.
I love how the paper cited other examples of success for conservation programs, but the countries and systems highlighted were mainly for marine ecosystems. Like Margot, I also thought about the PACT's applicability to other ecosystems, specifically for African wildlife. I think a good example of this is the conservation programs in Zimbabwe vs Namibia for the African elephant. There has been a lot of controversy around supporting trophy hunting- with money from large international hunters going to "conservation efforts". The IUCN supports this method of gaining revenue, but a place filled with corruption like Zimbabwe has seen no trickle down effect to the rural communities (Cruise, "Is Trophy Hunting"). However, if managed appropriately, like in Namibia, elephant numbers have been documented to increase (Cruise, "Is Trophy Hunting"). Since the program's foundation in 1996, over $70 million dollars has been generated for conservation efforts as well as benefits to the rural communities (Cruise, "Is Trophy Hunting"). Since the land being allowed to hunt on is protected by the conservancy, it also reduces the amount of ecological damage that may occur from farming (Cruise, "Is Trophy Hunting"). Overall, I wonder if PACT has any corruption issues? Or any corruption issues with the other marine examples cited?

Lucas Roberton

While reading the section that explained why the rates of tourists using the beaches was higher due to the location of the survey, I found myself wondering how the results of this survey would have differed if they had been administered in a different location. While the survey made statements that were intended to avoid a bias (the hypothetical fee statement), I wonder if there was a bias based on the fact that the majority of respondents had actually just gotten some sort of utility from the environmental resources that they were being asked to hypothetically pay more for. I think this is an interesting possibility, and it leads me to wonder how this effect could be replicated when talking about bigger topics such as climate change or carbon emissions. For example, if a person who lives in an area with very little air pollution was asked how much they would be willing to pay to have carbon emissions cut, their answer would very likely be lower than if they were asked this same question after traveling to a city with very poor air quality. Furthermore, when addressing large topics such as air quality, it makes me wonder how we could replicate the circumstances that would extract the highest willingness to pay from individuals, as obviously we don't want them to have to live under these circumstances. The trouble with this is sort of a free rider problem, as a person who isn't affected by these issues may not be bothered with them at all. These are some of the difficulties I see when thinking about how these types of surveys would work in different scenarios/ circumstances.

Max Gebauer

In the concluding paragraph, Casey and Schuhmann raise what I think to be the most interesting proposal (and call for further research). They note that studying the potential of tailored fees that correspond precisely to very specific areas or activities could be an excellent source for money for conservation initiatives. For example, instead of a blanket fee for a zone that has numerous potential activities related to the natural environment, if one could determine precisely the WTP for each specific activity, more nuanced and targeted fees would likely result in more fees collected, thereby making conservation efforts more effective in what could potentially even become a kind of virtuous loop. The applications to areas like coral reefs are perhaps the most obvious example, however, this same methodological approach wherein WTP is studied as not a measure where are variables are created equal but where the possibility that some are more important in determining WTP are recognized. This emphasis on the nuance of the study employed can be justified purely in economic terms, but this doesn't stop one from recognizing the potential normative gains that such studies could bring about.

Maisie Strawn

I had a couple of questions as I read through the paper: Do the tourists typically know before going to Belize that they will be required to pay the conservation fee when they depart the country? What would happen if they refused to pay it? I am imagining a scenario where a tourist’s stated maximum WTP was at the mean WTP, $31.08, but Belize had upped the fee to $40 dollars; is the idea that tourist wouldn’t come to Belize at all? Or that when asked to pay they would just refuse? Both seem somehow unlikely to me. Similarly, what happens to the 62% (if I interpreted the chart correctly) of tourists who claim their WTP is beneath $20 dollars when the fee gets raised to that? Again, will they not come to the country at all? It seems unlikely to me that well-off tourists would be deterred from visiting the country just because the departure fee is $10 higher than what they claim they would be willing to pay.
On the flip-side, is there a way Belize could capture some of the people’s willingness to pay that is higher than whatever the fee amounts ends up being? Could they explain what the fee was going towards and then ask if the tourist wanted to donate additional money to the cause? I feel like this could possibly play into some of the cognitive effects we talked about in class, in that the tourists would just have had a positive experience in the natural environment, so maybe they would be more willing to pay a little extra. I wonder if there is any precedent for trying something like that.

Valerie Marshall

I found this article very interesting and promising for the effectiveness of the conservation fee upon tourists departure from Belize in raising money to protect marine ecosystems around Belize. Reading this article made me wonder if and how we could apply these findings to other countries for protecting their ecosystems. The paper mentioned other studies conducted throughout the world, such as in Fiji, Brazil, The Philippines, and Peru, that found similar results of tourists willing to pay a fee towards ecosystem conservation for their opportunity to interact with aspects of that ecosystem, or just to know it still exists intact. It would seem to me that part of the reason the conservation fee in Belize works so well is because it is a small country where almost all tourists are visiting to interact with the natural environment of the country (whether that be by snorkeling or just laying on the beach). I would imagine that trying to structure a conservation fee like Belize’s, but for a larger country or one which has a variety of tourist attractions that don’t necessarily have to do with the flourishing ecosystems of the country, would be much more challenging. I think it would be important to conduct a study in the United States or a European country to see if people are still willing to pay a conservation fee (and how high it would be) for visiting a country where the main tourist attractions are big cities or historical/ cultural sites. Take Italy for example, many people visit the country just to visit Rome or see the Colosseum. While some tourists would also go to enjoy the beaches or the lake region, these environmental attractions may not be what the majority of tourists visit the country for; nevertheless, Italy’s ecosystems still need to be conserved and I would imagine benefit from additional funding. I think it would therefore be interesting to look at whether there is the same level of support for conservation fees for visiting a country in which a good portion of the visitors do not care about the quality of the country’s ecosystems. Of course, there are probably solutions to this, such as charging tourist fees only for visiting certain areas of the country, I just think this should be examined further because I am unsure if implementing such a policy for just a region of the country would be as easy as implementing it for the whole country.

Adam Harter

I decided to look at the Maya Riviera paper mentioned in the paper and compare the differences in WTP to protect marine resources from this reading. Both of these papers used the same equations to determine WTP which makes them great for comparison. To me, someone’s who has never been to either Belize or Maya Riviera, they look quite similar on paper. Both attractive, Central American, vacation locations especially for those with interest in snorkeling and SCUBA. What caught my interest was that these two locations have significant difference in their WTP.
In Belize, the mean WTP was determined to be $34.60 and in Maya Riviera the mean was $57.03. Before looking at the other paper I began theorizing about reasons why these numbers have a gap. My first thought was that people who visit Maya Riviera, for whatever reason, have a higher income and therefore more willing to spend more of their income. Unfortunately, the Maya Riviera survey did not include an income question so a comparison could not be made. If level of education is an indicator of income in anyway, respondents had similar levels of college education in both studies. Next, I thought perhaps the visitors to Maya Riviera are more likely to be repeat visitors, for whatever reason, and more likely to spend more their income because of the emotional connection to the place. Once again, these points were very similar with 41% for Belize and 34.7% for Maya Riviera. Another thought I had was maybe a larger percentage of people were in Maya Riviera directly appreciating the marine resources. But, the snorkeling and SCUBA percentages for the two were similar.
After looking through both, I cannot say a found a true cause for the difference between the two. Perhaps, Maya Riviera has certain non-use values that are just difficult to quantify. Regardless, I realize there is a lot of complexities to these and I don’t want oversimplify the justification.
One thing that I did think that could have an impact was how the survey questions were asked. First off, I am confused whether the question for the Maya Riviera was a write-in or multiple choice with options 5, 10, 25, 50, 100. If it is a write in, there might be some sort of bias to write more than they want to that I don’t know about. If it is a multiple choice, this survey provides far less options than the Belize survey. This might end up with people selecting more than they would want to because they feel constricted by the options. Regardless, there is something that is for certain. Governments are consistently undercharging tourists and losing out on a lot of revenue that would provide a lot of help to the marine resources.

Bridget Bartley

The conclusions of this study really made me curious on the effects on the environment in places perhaps with even higher levels of tourism. I immediately think of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ and impacts on locations stemming from natural phenomena bucket list-esque attractions. Because these places are so highly urged to travel to, are the people who are lucky enough to visit less conscious of their conservation due to the great deal of fame surrounding them? Or, would visitors have an even greater WTP for the conservation of such places? I also wonder if the buzz about such a raise in conservation fee in Belize specifically causally impacted the resulting increase in tourism at all. I am sure the relationship isn’t entirely causal but wonder if there were any of the additional visitors who thought ‘Belize is doing really great things in the realm of conservation, let’s go check it out.’ While I see how, based on the resulting WTP values from the study, Belize could potentially increase the fee to an even greater amount, I hesitate to suggest Belize should increase their PACT fee once again closer to the measured mean of the study. I do believe there is a large bias between what people say they would pay and what they would actually be okay with paying without complaint even with systems in place to try to avoid them.

Casey & Schuhmann’s findings interest me in regard to the potential implications of initiating the PACT fee upon arrival to Belize, or the implications of suggesting a donation rather than assigning a mandatory price. Are people more okay with the fee after having a (hopefully) successful trip? What are the repercussions if they refuse to pay it (i.e. how high would WTP be if you could not leave Belize without paying it, maybe?) After a proposed successful trip, would a suggested donation raise more or less money towards Belize’s conservation cause? Or would visitors be more likely to ignore it completely? All of these questions alone could be extensions of this study. They could all also potentially play a role in the best ways to go about funding eco-tourism conservation.

Lauren Paolano

Casey and Schuhmann’s article about tourists WTP a small exit fee to enhance marine resource conservation in Belize made me think about a large public park on Long Island called Caumsett State Historic Park. It is a 1,520-acre state park on Lloyd Neck, a peninsula extending into the Long Island Sound, in the Village of Lloyd Harbor, New York. Much of the park today is managed as a nature preserve, with a focus on protecting high-quality bird habitat.
I have been visiting Caumsett ever since I was a little kid. It’s only about a 5 minute drive from my house. The park allows for recreation such as horse back riding, fishing, jogging, hiking, and biking. There is a $40 annual parking car permit (NYS Residents) and $75 one for Non-NYS Residents. There are also daily vehicle passes which cost $8 and a 24-hour pass that costs $25. I assume majority of these fees go towards conservation of the bird habitat and other up-keepings of the park. One of my previous issues with the car permit is that they only give you one pass per family. So for instance, if another family member has the sticker on their car but that car is not available, you will have to pay the $8 to drive into the park. Though this seems a small fee to pay for the day, some people may not believe the benefits outweigh the costs and their WTP will diminish.
I think a parking pass is a great way to maintain tourists while gaining money for conservation. However, the people who run, bike, or walk into the state park will not have to pay a fee at all. I wonder if maybe the park should implement a small exit fee, like Belize, in order to to gain money from the tourists who didn’t drive. I would say around $2-3 would be my max willingness to pay. If spin classes are $30, I believe most people would pay $3 to bike around the 3 mile park for a few hours.


The PACT or no PACT paper was a very interesting and natural extension of what we have been discussing in class regarding how to put economic value on non-market goods. In this case it was the marine ecosystem and specifically the Belize Barrier Reef. It is very telling that nearly 30% of Belize’s GDP is generated from the existence of the reef. I feel like this is a very significant piece of information that to citizens of Belize, not to mention tourists, need to know in order to come to inclusive assessments of fair value of marine resources. It is a good example of what is likely asymmetric information for most tourists who visit Belize and indeed who participated in this survey. The discussion of cost bearing is poignant and something which needs to be established. Since the use of the reef is a public good, many tourists see their use in no other way but providing personal satisfaction while not considering the external costs generated. The design of the survey also seemed to be logical albeit perhaps flawed in a few areas. The decision to choose Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye are never explained except later in the paper to acknowledge that these two locations are primarily used for marine activities. I think this leads to a bias in the results of the study as these people are already predisposed to desire to use and value the marine ecosystem as that is their intent by staying in the two locations. As discussed in the paper other tourist activities exist such as visiting Mayan ruin and surely a number of land based opportunities for unique recreation activities. Perhaps a more balanced study would take a more holistic approach to surveying tourists in Belize by focusing on more diverse locations in terms of the activities they offer and proximity to the sea. The current survey may in fact overestimate the WTP of tourist as it mostly asked people in a location associated with marine recreation. I also found it interesting how people who visited the ruins were willing to pay significantly more than those who didn’t. Perhaps this is due to the interrelated nature of conservation and tourism. Those that are willing/able to go to ruins are also more likely to have more income and more care for the quality of tourist attractions and the environment and ecosystem.

I also found the negligible impact of the higher exit fee to be unsurprising. Intuitively it makes sense. People who want to visit Belize are not going to consider a $20 entrance fee to be a significant determining factor into whether they go there or somewhere else. On the margin if a tourist wants to visit Belize it is a minuscule and almost insignificant amount. However, for Belize the fee provides the opportunity to properly maintain the parks and marine areas which in turn will foster more tourism bringing in more fees. It creates a positive feedback loop. I also wonder where the choke price would be for the fee. At what price would it be so high that a statistically significant amount of people choose not to go to Belize because of the exit fee? I also wonder how well known the exit fee is by tourists visiting. Do most know about it when they are booking their trips or do they find out when they arrive?

Joey Dunn

The objective of this paper was to determine if Belize tourists were willing to pay a higher exit fee to help fund conservation. For those willing to pay a higher fee, the secondary objective was to determine the maximum fee they were willing to pay. The results of the study were generally positive, as results indicated that approximately 80% of tourists are willing to pay higher exit fees for conservation, with a mean fee of $34.60. These results were also consistent with a number of other similar studies conducted in high profile conservation locations. In my opinion, these results are very encouraging, as they both affirm the sentiment that a substantial percentage of people value conservation and reveal an opportunity to greatly increase conservation efforts around the world. That being said, there may be some bias within the sample as individuals who can afford to travel to Belize and chose the nature-rich country over other vacation destinations may not accurately represent an average person. This bias is irrelevant when considering scenarios like Belize, which is why the results appear to be very helpful and encouraging, but I do not think we have enough evidence to declare that an exit fee is the best strategy for all conservation. Not all locations in dire need of conservation have the same appeal, popularity, and wealthy visitor base as Belize. These variables may have a major influence on a tourist’s willingness to pay, which implies that we have a lot more research to do if we want to further apply this strategy to conservation efforts around the world.

Walker Morris

Of the articles and papers studied so far in this course, I found this paper to be the most relevant and applicable, especially since it is a case study into a non-market environmental good. More importantly, the paper reinforced the concepts of preference methods, particularly the contingent valuation method (CVM). The CVM was used in this study to estimate the willingness to pay (WTP) of tourists in Belize for environmental conservation fees. In Wednesday’s class we discussed the different preference methods used to calculate WTP, and seeing an actual study using the CVM gave me a much better understanding of both the methods used to make estimations and the considerations taken by economists when gathering data through a survey.
Beyond the development of my knowledge of preference methods, the paper also introduced what I believe is one of the best systems for generating funds to support environmental conservation efforts. This system is simply a small fee attached to the recreational consumption of environmental resources. For instance, if an individual goes scuba diving they are to pay a small consumption fee for using the ocean and the ecosystems below its surface. In turn, the revenue generated from the consumption fee will be collected by the government before being allocated to support environmental conservation. In other words, this system can be viewed as a highway toll system for environmental conservation. If you use an environmental resource for your own enjoyment, you must also pay a small fee to preserve the environment you used. While this may seem like an additional tax that most consumers would reject, the research conducted in the paper suggests otherwise. In fact, roughly 79% of survey respondents stated that they would be willing to pay an additional consumption fee if they knew that it would be allocated to environmental conservation. Furthermore, a little bit less than half of the respondents said they would be willing to pay up to $10 in consumption fees. While the general willingness to pay of consumers is very encouraging, caution should be taken by policy makers if they attempt to implement or raise environmental consumption fees. As stated earlier, about 1 in every 5 respondents rejected the concept of implementing consumption fees. This means that if consumption fees are implemented or raised, a sizable amount of consumers could vanish. Furthermore, many respondents expressed support for increased fees as long as they were fairly low.
After reviewing the survey results, I still believe that a consumption fee is an appropriate policy towards promoting conservation and combating the effects of climate change. That being said, any future implementation of consumption fees should be done with extreme caution and careful research. Policy makers cannot expect generate the funds needed for conservation if they implement a charge of more than $10, as they would lose a significant amount of their consumer base. Instead, policy makers should introduce fees in a very cautious and gradual manner. Introducing a fee of less than $5 would be a good start, and if consumers are still willing to pay for using the environment, the fees can be raised. If the EPA or local agencies introduced consumption fees in the United States, I believe that it would promote conservation and sustainability throughout society. Small fees for fishing in rivers, camping, or using hiking trails would pay off in the future in the form of healthier and cleaner ecosystems throughout the country. I believe that the United States should take Belize's policy a step further and apply conservation fees to a wide array of activities involving natural resources.

Matt Condon

While this survey was conducted in a way that could yield many accurate results, there are definitely methods of collecting data that could have led to more precise results, yet they would have been difficult to implement. The survey administered in this study was a stated preference technique, and I believe this study could have benefited from the use of some revealed preference techniques instead. If some hedonic pricing mechanisms were implemented, there could have possibly been tangible economic data to base the future conservation fee on. However, this hedonic pricing mechanism would have involved increasing the conservation fee until tourists began to stop coming to Belize because they were no longer willing to pay the fee, and I’m sure this experiment would have not been permitted by the government of Belize. One other thought I had about this survey is that the timing of the survey’s administration could have led to a discrepancy in results. Some may say that administering the survey as tourists left Belize would have yielded the most accurate results because the details of the environment would still be fresh on the brains of the tourists, allowing them to accurately express their willingness to pay. However, I believe there is a chance that administering the survey right as tourists left Belize may have created a moment of nostalgia and emotional connection to the environment, which could have caused participants to state that their willingness to pay is higher in that moment than it would be when they are considering coming back to Belize.

Christopher Watt

Nice paper, professor! I think this paper and our discussions this week are such a strong reminder that economics is fundamentally about decision making and human behavior. When applied to the environment, I am certain there are millions of people who rarely consider the impact that the actions and decisions they make have on the environment. For this reason, the anchoring method of the survey is particularly fascinating. Furthermore, I wonder how people would actually respond to a rise in the exit fee. I am curious to know what was the motivating factor for the original price of $3.75 USD. From a simple google search, it appears the fee still costs $20USD. In accordance with the research here, it seems there is space for that number to move up. Because people may be unaware of the fact that they have to pay the exit fee, I wonder what the "cost" would be of increasing it even beyond the estimated price with consideration of the WTP study? With it being mandatory for exit, other than fear that people may be less inclined to return due to more complete information about the total travel expense, I imagine raising the price would really do little to deter travel.

Christopher Watt

Oops only got half of it up the first time.
Additionally, one of the methodology strategies I found most interesting was the inclusion of the whale shark siting into the WTP option and how dramatically that influenced WTP.
This study reminded me of a debate I heard about recently on whether the birders should have to buy a stamp each year for conservation purposes, much like hunters and fishermen do. Around 45 million people participate in birding in the US compared to 15 million hunters (https://www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/bird-watching/valuing-birds.php). In each state hunters are charged for a hunting license and national migratory permits, which provide funding for local, state, and federal fish and wildlife conservation services. Because of the large number of birders, many of whom use game refuges and other public cites that require funding from fish and wildlife organization to maintain and protect, there seems a great opportunity to charge participants for a yearly license. Even at a price of $3-5 this could make a huge impact! I would be interested to see the results of a WTP survey of birders who use these spaces for the right to continue to use and protect them.

Dani Murray

Casey and Schuhmann's paper focuses on determining what extent tourists in Belize would be effected by having a PACT or no PACT. The paper follows very closely to the discussion we had in class on Wednesday. I am curious if there was another possible way to design the survey. Specifically, who took it and when/where they took it. According to U.S. News, the best time to visit Belize is during the dry season. The dry season is usually from late November to mid-April. Only one round of the survey was conducted during the most desired time to visit Belize (February), while the other two were just shy (May) of the "peak" vacation time. I understand why the survey was conducted in Belize, but I would be interested to see how people who have NOT been to Belize would have responded to the survey. All survey respondents have an appreciation/WTP for Belize or else they would not have traveled to Belize. If you were to have people who had not traveled to Belize before take the survey, would they be as willing to pay the same amount? Do they value the Marine ecosystem of Belize similarly? I believe there is bias in the survey respondents' answers which was not taken into account in the article.

Overall, I think the survey results are not surprising. It makes sense that the average respondents' income was $90,000 and had a college degree or higher. These are the people who can afford to travel and take time away from work. I would be interested to conduct a similar survey for beaches off the coast of the United States. How would these answers differ?


Jacob Thompson

I found this paper to be very interesting and informative, but I was left with two questions after reading it. First, I found myself curious as to how the exit fee is enforce in Belize. If people refuse to pay, are they held there permanently? I felt that a bit more context here would have helped a little in my understanding of the whole paper as I would be able to acknowledge the repercussions of not paying the fee. Additionally, I found myself wondering as to just how true some of these survey answers are. The fact that the survey was done in person suggested to me that there could have been a bit of pressure placed on the survey taker, as they did not want to be judged by the person giving them the survey. Thus, it’s possible that they provided a higher willingness to pay than they actually believe is reasonable, as they felt it would look bad to say either no or a small amount of money. And while I also believe by acknowledging the existence of the hypothetical bias to the survey taker helped to prevent it, I feel that it still applies in some aspects as some people may still provide untruthful answers, perhaps if they didn’t plan on coming back to Belize or simply wanted to seem like a good person. One aspect that I found very intriguing was the idea of the anchoring bias. I found it very ironic that when people were made aware of the original fee amount, they had a tendency to have a lower willingness to pay an increase fee. If a person is on vacation in Belize, it is very likely that they are rather well of financially, and they should be able to pay a higher fee than they stated. Finally, regarding the conclusion, I agree in the fact that Belize should look to expand how it raises funds for their conservation efforts. They should examine which recreational activities are most popular among tourists, and find a way to capitalize on the consumer surplus or place a conservational tax on said activities.

Sydney Goldstein

In this paper, Casey and Schuhmann conclude that tourists in Belize’s WTP is just over $30USD, thus could be raised from the current $20USD exit fee. Through research I found that this amount applies only to travelers leaving Belize via crossing to Guatemala or Mexico (terrestrial or marine). This $20USD exit fee is equal to $40BZD. Of this fee $2.50BZD is for border development, $7.50BZD is for conservation efforts, and $30BZD is defined simply as being a departure tax. Those that exit Belize via air from the Philip Goldson International Airport incur a different tax. Belize citizens and permanent residents pay a $35BZD exit fee, and non-citizens/non-residents pay a $55.50USD fee ($111.88BZD). I think it is interesting that this study did not consider the differences in the tax for those exiting via airplane. But, furthermore, I find it interesting that in my research I was not able to find a breakdown of how the exit fee via airplane was spent by the government of Belize. But noting that the exit fee is higher for those who travel by airplane, I wonder if the WTP for those who travel by plane is higher. One potential reason I propose that this value is able to be higher is that, those traveling by plane are likely spending more money on a vacation which likely translates to having a higher income, thus higher ability to pay, thus higher WTP. Another potential reason that an exit fee via air travel is able to be higher is that it often gets buried in the cost of the plane ticket. Thus, people may not see the tax as an additional cost taking their money, like they may see the other exit fee (which must be paid in cash) and be willing to pay more. This could be in part due to the fact that people tend to value cash more since it has physical form and departing with something physical tends to be more difficult than spending money electronically via credit card. Another reason might be because the exit fee for those traveling via airplane is tacked onto the airfare cost and thus people don’t view it as a separate entity taking their money, but rather as part of the cost of the good. I think that future research on how making a conservation tax associated with other goods, for instance adding a tax for conservation to a hotel bill for each night stayed at the hotel, and how that affects tourism and WTP could be a crucial part to raising more money for underfunded conservation efforts in Belize and elsewhere. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see if for example, the tax would be able to be higher at higher end resorts thus allowing for some price discrimination.

Departure fees info: https://www.belizeadventure.ca/travel-tips/departure-tax/

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