Conservation Strategy Fund helps local conservationists use economic tools to find smart, efficient solutions to the most urgent environmental problems. Since its creation in 1998, CSF has conducted dozens of analysis projects in forests, rivers and coastal environments. Most of our work has focused in the tropics, where extraordinarily high levels of biological diversity are found. To maximize the reach and quality of our work, we involve leading experts and conservation organizations in all of our projects.

Demand for visits to Tanzania's national parks

Tanzania’s system of 16 national parks includes some of the most famous natural places on earth such as Serengeti and Kilamanjaro, as well as many lesser-known areas that are equally spectacular. The park system is managed by Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), which funds activities solely through revenue generated from tourism; it does not receive any government funds. With tourism currently Tanzania’s second largest contributor to gross domestic product (GDP), effective management of the parks system is vital for both wildlife and the country’s economy.

In 2001, TANAPA official Ezekiel Dembe attended to CSF’s international Economic Tools for Conservation training. After the course, TANAPA collaborated with CSF on a research project to better understand park visitation. The project focused in particular on the potential for higher entrance fees in select parks to both increase revenues and at the same time shift visitation towards some of the less well-known parks. Partly as a result, TANAPA has increased fees several times in the past decade, providing much-needed funds.

In 2014, TANAPA again participated in CSF’s training, sending Senior Park Warden Beatrice Kessy to our annual course at Stanford. Building on themes from the course and past collaboration, TANAPA and CSF have conducted a new study of tourists’ “price elasticity of demand” at the invitation of TANAPA’s Director General, Allan Kijazi. TANAPA sees scientific research as the foundation for setting the new entrance fees at the right level to increase revenues without negatively affecting tourism or the numerous enterprises that depend on it. The new fees will go into effect on July 1st, 2016.

The current study takes a more sophisticated look at demand, with TANAPA staff gathering more than 3,000 visitor surveys, including information from all 16 of the country’s parks. The methodology employed was contingent valuation, an approach widely used in market research, as well as to understand the value of non-market goods. Contingent valuation is within the family of stated-preference valuation techniques that determine willingness-to-pay by asking people questions about hypothetical markets. We collaborated in study design with frequent CSF collaborator and contingent valuation expert Jorge Maldonado at the University of the Andes in Colombia.

The result is separate demand curves for each of TANAPA’s most visited parks, as well as a good sense of how price-sensitive visitors are across the rest of the system. In a context where park management is 100% funded by fees, setting fees to optimize revenue generated is a key determinant of how effectively the country’s parks are managed.

This project is made possible thanks to the support of the Handsel Foundation and in collaboration with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA).