Ecotourism development and the heterogeneity of tourists

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ORIGINAL PAPER

Ecotourism development and the heterogeneity of tourists Joung Hun Lee 1 & Yoh Iwasa 2 Received: 12 December 2019 / Accepted: 30 March 2020 # The Author(s) 2020

Abstract Ecotourism is potentially capable of making biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management economically feasible. Here, we propose a simple model for ecotourism development considering the heterogeneity of tourists, motivated by the case of Jeju Island, South Korea. We analyze the optimal investment in accommodation capacity (i.e., hotels, restaurants, and transportation) and in improving the quality of the environment (i.e., biodiversity, landscape, and cultural activities). “General tourists” are abundant but will not return to the focal site, and their future number is unpredictable, while “loyal tourists” may return to the site if they are attracted by its environmental and/or cultural assets. The analysis shows that the economically profitable policy is either the one with a large investment in accommodation capacity targeting general tourists or the one with a large investment to environmental quality targeting loyal tourists, but an intermediate mixture of these extremes cannot be the optimal. We also discuss “zoning,” in which a site is separated to two areas, and many visitors stay in the first area and visit the second area to enjoy the high-quality environment. Keywords Ecotourism . General tourists . Loyal tourists . Optimistic policy . Pessimistic policy

Introduction For the success of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management, securing a stable supply of funds to cover maintenance costs is always an important issue. Ecotourism is a hopeful method to achieve this goal, although there can be many problems. Ecotourists come to the site to enjoy the biodiversity, landscape, history, and cultural activities of the local area. Investments in the restoration of local ecosystems and the protection of endangered species and endemic biota, as well as in improvements to the natural landscape and the construction of facilities for visitor activities (e.g., walking paths, museums, bookstores) may enhance the value of the site to ecotourists. Sites may also promote cultural activities and hire rangers and curators to study the site’s unique

* Yoh Iwasa [email protected] 1

Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Kyushu University, Motooka 744, Nishi-ku, Fukuoka 819-0395, Japan

2

Department of Bioscience, School of Science and Technology, Kwansei Gakuin University, Gakuen 2-1, Sanda, Hyogo 669-1337, Japan

natural and cultural features, administer the site, and give lectures to visitors on topics on which they have special knowledge. Because ecotourism is an important means by which a local community can achieve sustainable development and conserve its natural ecosystem and biodiversity, theoretical study of the basis of successful ecotourism is an important research theme. In fact, tourism in general has become one of the most rapidly increasing industries in the contemporary world with growing importance to ec