The financial returns to Kenyan tourism demonstrate the importance of the country's tourist potential to its economic development. Protected areas and their inhabitants are the principal focus of the tourist industry, the nations's main foreign exchange earner, and a source of wonder and value for a global population of non-users. It might be expected that such assets would be accorded some degree of security with sufficient funding to safeguard current and potential economic benefits. Yet park use is haphazard, and there is frequently little coincidence between those that benefit and those that pay for the continued existence of such areas. Growing economic and demographic pressures which threaten to swamp protected areas only emphasize the implicit subsidy currently paid by Kenyans to support conservation for the benefit of the world at large. In this climate the case for conservation depends on the measurement and capture of economic benefits. Using a contingent valuation survey of expressed preference this study estimates the consumer surplus attached to current non-consumptive use of protected areas by foreign visitors at some $450 million per annum. This sum alone is more than double the best available estimate of opportunity cost and appears to justify current resource use. The estimate is additional to current financial returns from tourism and makes no allowance for other direct and indirect benefits and potential returns from consumptive uses. Measured consumer surplus contains some margin of willingness to pay that could be captured through the current fee structure. Moreover, park fees represent the most accessible market mechanism to finance revenue sharing and additional park investment before potential recourse to emerging global market institutions.
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