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I found this paper extremely interesting but more importantly very accessible. Our class discussions and content thus far absolutely improved my take-aways from this paper, but this paper could easily be read by someone with little to no background or knowledge in the area and still be understood thoroughly. Specifically, I really thought the first 2 pages or so did a great job of contextualizing the issue and the goals of the research. The extreme economic positives from the marine biodiversity was very well written, which framed the question very well of "but how valuable is it actually?"

I also found the paper to be very thorough in its logic. Something I was thinking early on in the read was the fact that individuals will undoubtedly answer differently as a result of who is interviewing them. I was going to write about this possible shortcoming in my blog, but instead the paper address this and coins the term "social desirability bias". Definitely an interesting concept because it clearly does exist, but I would imagine it is near impossible to measure. This is just one example. From beginning to end, the use of intentional langue really ensures that the reader can understand the limitations of expanding this knowledge to a larger population.

Something I found interesting was the idea of anchoring, and how people's willingness to pay decreased when they knew that the current fee was $3.75. I'd assume some of this anchoring bias is based of consumers believing that this current fee was intentionally and scientifically chosen, as the average person may not understand the difficulty of valuing non-market resources.

Finally, I liked the not that the paper ended on. I found it optimistic and liked that the paper had specific ideas of how to move forward, not just with research but also with allocation of funds.


After reading this paper, I was interested in how a “tourist” was defined and questioned how this could lead to unfairness. For example, should a wealthy tourist who is doing recreational activities in the marine protection area be charged the same exit fee as a hospital volunteer or an American citizen born in Belize visiting their parents for a few days? I suspect that the government in Belize is defining the word tourist as any non Belizean citizen visiting the country, which makes sense as a straightforward and easy to understand definition. However, I personally think that they should come up with a more specific definition to ensure fairness with the implementation of the higher fee.

Secondly, I was surprised and intrigued by the fact that that that after the fee was increased from $3.75 to $20, tourism actually went up. “In March of 2018, Belize received a record number of overnight arrivals of 55,488. This represented a 25% increase over March of 2017”(Casey). A traditional supply and demand curve would lead one to believe that when the price of something goes up, the less number of people will consume it. When considering that the most common maximum willingness to pay was $10, this leads me to question how honest people were being in their survey answers and what other factors could possibly be in play.

Thirdly, this paper reminded me of a country I researched while studying gross national happiness (GNH). That country is the himilayan kingdom of Bhutan. According to the travel website Lonely Planet, “All tourists must pay US$250 per person per day, with a US$40/30 surcharge per person for those in a group of one/two”(Lonely Planet). This daily fee is extremely high in comparison to the $20 total fee in Belize. However, Bhutan implemented this high fee due to the fact that it not only that it raised environmental funds, but that it also reduced the number of tourists in the country. Less tourists increased the quality of the experience while also decreasing the amount of erosion and damage to the natural beauty of Bhutan. I personally think that this idea of using price to ensure a limited amount of tourism is very interesting and I will be intrigued to see if other countries follow Bhutan.

Lonely Planet. “Money and Costs in Bhutan.” Lonely Planet, www.lonelyplanet.com/bhutan/money-costs.


In June of 2014 I went on a service trip to Orange Walk, Belize. Following our mission work our group leaders surprised us with a one-night trip to Caye Caulker. I vividly remember taking an hour-long water taxi to the island. I refuse to describe the beauty of the water as I could never do it justice. We spent our day there snorkeling. Although it was almost six years ago now, I will never forget the water clarity, as it was so clear one would’ve thought they were looking through air. I remember the nurse sharks and sting rays, the bright oranges and purples. These are the images that ran through my head as I read this paper and thought about my own willingness-to-pay.

I found the results of this paper to be appropriate in the context of previous literature. It’s no surprise that often times tourists’ willingness-to-pay is higher when they have visited Belize before. What I’m willing to pay after my experience in Belize is probably significantly higher than someone who has never been. However, I had one main concern in regard to the way the survey was carried out. The interviewers circulated around the islands at bars, restaurants, dive shops, airports, and beach-side resorts. I’m wondering if there could be some bias considering these people were already on—or traveling to—the island regardless. I think it would be beneficial to survey people outside of the island/country (but of the same demographic (e.g. well-educated, higher income)) and capture their WTP.


It is very interesting to think about mandatory payment to conservation organizations for the recreational use of the environment in Belize, but it makes sense. If the current rate of consumption and pollution continues, beautiful ecosystems will become more and more scarce, thus justifying either a market for their recreational use or a need for increased conservation efforts to maintain the natural beauty of an area. Not being a true economist (yet), I am still fascinated by the ability to turn yes/no questions into equations.
I have experienced, in Florida, having to pay an entrance fee in order to get onto a certain island. I believe the fee was something like $20, but my mother was very determined to see this island because it was mentioned in her tour book, so the fee did not dissuade her. The parallel that can be drawn to the survey in Belize is that, if something is valued, there will be no real barrier to tourists for visiting. As mentioned in the study, individuals belonging to environment groups are more willing to pay the higher fees; it could be assumed that these individuals will also be more likely to treat the ecosystem with respect. It can't necessarily be assumed that individuals who are not willing to pay more than the $3.75 would be deterred from visiting the country. If a higher PACT fee was charged, then I feel that tourists would simply view this as another travel cost. I think that it would be important to state what the fee was going towards in order to justify the cost in the mind of the tourists.


Total economic value of an item is the combination of its price and any consumer surplus that results from its purchase. Initial problems when dealing with the environment is that there is not one set gauge on its economic value. Luckily, there are plenty of methods to discover cost of non-market entities. In order to gauge the worth of marine ecosystems in Belize, contingent valuation methods were conducted via hand-delivered surveys in high tourist traffic areas. Here, visitors were able to determine and select the price tag they placed on Belize’s marine conservation efforts. In my opinion, survey design and delivery was the most intriguing part of the process. I particularly appreciate that although it contained appropriately in-depth content the survey still remained brief overall. Additionally, the answers provided concrete answers that add to the overall paper’s narrative. Luckily, this paper supported some seemingly intuitive patterns, such as, “individuals who belong to environmental groups are more likely to respond in the affirmative” (5). On the other hand, it also quantified some abstract comparisons in my mind. For example, “WTP higher fees is just over $30.00” (5). The fact that these fees directly funnel back into conservation efforts is rather inspiring. Belize has a specific species of endangered coral that is thriving despite its ideal environment for coral bleaching and worsening conditions for coral populations worldwide; immediate attention to preservation of remaining breeds is vital. Earlier in the article, parallels of Belize were drawn to other ‘tropical’ environments. This suggests that the conclusions made of this nation could potentially be recreated in similar regions globally.

KT Hensler

My initial reaction when I began reading this article was that a price raise from $3 to $20 is already so much, how much higher could they raise it from 2017-now? As I continued to read, however, noticing the demographics of the tourists that visit Belize, it makes more sense that the average willingness to pay is around $30. My thoughts right now are how does this WTP price compare to places where the demographics are more diverse? Traveling to tropical places can be expensive, which would limit the people being surveyed. Island Beach State Park in New Jersey also has a conservation plan, but it from what I remember, I did not have to pay anywhere close to $20 to visit. In the examples of previous WTP studies, there are a lot of prices that are “up to $x”. I couldn’t stop thinking about the lower end of those spectrums. In a place such as Island Beach State Park, or other local conservation efforts that have minimal to no funding, how would one of these studies be helpful? I would expect a raised price to seriously hurt the income of a US conservation location. This could be my still-developing economic thinking process, but I am very interested in seeing something with a more demographically diverse group surveyed.

Didi Pace

Casey's study noted that a lack of funding (1), global climate change (2), and mangrove replacement with man-made capital (3) all contribute to the threat of Belize's marine ecosystem--

1) Casey concluded that tourists are willing to pay significantly more than the current PACT entry/exit fee.

2) In Professor Kahn's Environmental Valuation class, we looked at a contingent valuation paper comparing citizens' willingness to pay for climate change mitigation in China and the US, the two largest greenhouse gas emitters. Ultimately, the researchers suggested that significant support exists for climate policy, and as such, their findings are a promising indicator of future climate policy success. In short, people are willing to pay for climate change policy.

3) In Kahn's class, we also looked at a choice modeling study for mangrove restoration in Belize. Among those surveyed, there were clear preferences towards near-term restoration.

These studies all lead to similar conclusions; people want environmental quality and are willing to pay for it. I hope that governments start translating these conclusions into meaningful policy action.

Ginny Johnson

I found it really interesting how few tourists who responded to the survey seemed to be aware of the exit fee, especially considering 41% of them had been to Belize before. I have been to Belize three times in the last two years and had never heard of PACT before. It seems to me that if knowledge of the $3.75 fee causes people to anchor to a lower amount than they otherwise would and people, for the most part, are unaware of the current fee, that this is even more reason to raise the fee again, especially considering that since the $3.75 to $20.00 price increase, tourism has actually gone up. It makes sense that the “price elasticity of demand for high-end tourism [is] highly inelastic”. Since people are already paying hundreds of dollars for flights, hotels, and activities on the island, what’s another $10 in the scheme of things?

I’m also curious about all of the previous studies outlined in Section 2.2 that discovered tourists have a higher willingness to pay for conservation than they’re currently being charged. Were these fees increased to the amounts suggested by the economists conducting these studies? If they were implemented, were they as well-received as the studies predicted they would be?

I’m also curious what the ideal budget for conservation is from the perspective of the people of work in conservation in Belize. Like, in order for current MPAs to run perfectly, do they need $20 from every tourist? Or do they need $100 from every tourist? Would including knowledge of this amount in the survey affect tourists’ answers?

Allie Case

I cited this in my discussion response, but never attached the article link:


Giddings Harrison

I found this paper to be a great extension of the conversation and readings that we had on Wednesday. This paper demonstrates the power of surveys in policymaking decisions as its findings have direct implications for the exit fee. While I was interested in the paper, I found the idea of PACT especially interesting. PACT is a private fund that finances conservation efforts. The fund aims to respond to: issues of biodiversity and ecosystem protection, financial stability of the National Protected Area System (NPAS), and extend the benefits of the NPAS to support local communities. While this fund seems to have the right intentions, I want to ask how Krutilla, the author of Conservation Reconsidered, might respond to PACT. Based on his work, it seems that organizing a private market for a public good can lead to problems. While I believe that PACT is striving to act in the best interest of the local communities and ecosystems in Belize, I wonder if it might have flaws that Krutilla pointed to in his article.

Ashley M Johnston

With the tremendous research on the willingness to pay around the world, were there any studies that resulted in an unwillingness to pay for environmental conservation? Knowing what people are willing to pay is important whether or not it is the answer we want. Exploring the characteristics of results that show unwillingness to pay might help us better approach conservation for those individuals.
I think it is interesting how many tourists are likely to return to Belize! Over 90 even with the rising environmental tax. This might reveal that caring for the environment and conservations make vacations more pleasant and desirable. Additionally, what people do on vacations might impact how they are willing to pay. I thought it was really interesting that people who say Mayan ruins had a higher willingness to pay. It might be that people who select into that activity values preservation of historical and monuments higher than those on the beach and this value transfers to marine conservation – or it might be that exposure to preserved wonders might increase people’s willingness to pay because it is a good outcome of preservation.
Additionally, if the fees are raised so much that tourism decreases, would this have a positive impact on the conservation efforts because less tourism? What impact do tourists have on the environment over a vacation?

Natalie Burden

This paper did a great job of noting the various characteristics that could have influenced a respondent’s willingness to pay for protection of Belize’s marine environmental resources. What stood out most in my mind as I read was that those who visited the Mayan ruins, although not marine-related, were willing to pay significantly more than others. People who visit the ruins are likely more appreciative of cultural and historical goods and experiences. Like environmental resources, cultural and historical goods do not necessarily have a precise value but many people would agree that these types of goods, like the Mayan ruins, have a right to exist. Thinking about it in this way, it is not surprising that people who visited the Mayan ruins regard both history and the environment with more respect than others and would therefore be more willing to pay for marine conservation. I often find myself disappointed by the fact that with so many environmental problems, there are solutions that should so clearly be implemented but rarely are because not enough people care about it, or people prioritize other things over the environment. However, this seems like one case in which caring goes a long way and has potential to make a significant difference. There was controversy over raising the tourism fee before enacting it due to the fears that it would reduce tourism. However, after the fee was raised, tourism increased. It is not specifically stated in the paper whether the hike in tourism resulted directly from the increase in the fee, but it suggests that caring about a cause, such as marine resource protection, in fact drives people to accept a higher charge knowing that it supports a good cause and travel more to a place that they know is actively trying to protect its environment.

Navid Haider

One interesting thing that caught my attention was that the individuals who had visited the Mayan ruins were willing to pay significantly more than those who did not visit any ruins, despite the survey being primarily about marine conservation. I'm kinda curious as to why this correlation persists.Seeing the mayan ruins might have triggered some kind of positive emotion which prompted individuals to be more caring (seemingly because they were ready to pay more money).On the contrary, I wonder what would have happened if a group of respondents were presented with a grim survey which would contain picture of dead coral reefs. I assume that it would impact the individuals assessment of the perceived danger to reef and maybe increase Marginal willingness to pay. I found a similar paper which uses the contingent valuation method but also includes measures of risk perception.


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