Scuba diving has become a popular marine-based tourism activity and has generated a significant amount of revenue for Thailand's tourism industry. However, the intense level of scuba diving is imposing a strain on the coral reef and marine life. Appropriate management policies are required to control the level of scuba diving and environmental costs associated with this tourism activity. The primary objective of this thesis is therefore to propose marine park management policies for conservation and preservation of valuable marine resources. The secondary objective is to analyse the factors affecting Thailand's inbound tourism demand.
To fulfil the objectives and arrive at appropriate management policies, this thesis addresses three related issues, namely social and economic factors influencing international tourism demand; management of scuba diving through the use of economic instruments; and estimation of scuba diving demand and the economic benefit of Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park.
Pooled cross-section and time series data were used in the tourism demand analysis of the Thai tourism industry to determine the factors affecting tourism demand. The Contingent Valuation Method (CVM) was adopted to determine the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for scuba diving and to estimate the economic value of Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park. The Travel Cost Method (TCM) was also applied to estimate individual consumer surplus and the economic value of Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park.
The study found average regional income, size of population, relative cost of living and the SARS outbreak to be the significant factors influencing tourism demand. These findings can be used in combination with those from the CV and TC studies to formulate more effective tourism policies, particularly for scuba divers.
The estimated willingness to pay using the double-bounded dichotomous choice contingent valuation models is THB 1,017 (US $24.45) for Thai divers and THB 1,146 (US $27.55) for overseas divers. The similarity of these estimates suggests that VI a single flat fee for both Thais and overseas divers is appropriate. If the scuba diving fee were increased from its current level of THB 200 (US $4.8) to THB 1,125 (US $27.04), Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park would generate an economic gain of THB 38,793,592 (US $932,520) per year.
The individual consumer surplus using in the Travel Cost Method is estimated to be US $4,595.6 per person per trip and the economic benefit of Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park is estimated to be US $ 158 million per year. This figure is larger than that of the CV study and provides an upper bound estimate of the value of the park
Findings from this study can provide better information for policy makers to use in the making of management and conservation policies marine resources. It was found that many scuba divers choose to visit Thailand because of the aesthetic qualities of the dive sites and the relatively low cost of living. Extra park revenue from an increased scuba diving fee can be put towards intensifying monitoring and prosecution of illegal activities that can destroy coral reefs and endanger marine life. It is recommended that Scuba diving companies could be invited to help monitor illegal activities in the park.