Exploring visitors’ willingness to pay to generate revenues for managing the National Elephant Conservation Center in Malaysia
Financial sustainability of protected areas is one of the main challenges of management. Financial self-sufficiency is an important element in improving conservation effort in these areas. This study seeks to review best practices in recreational fee systems in different countries and to find a relevant entry fee for a wildlife sanctuary in Malaysia. The revenue of the National Elephant Conservation Center (NECC) in Kuala Gandah, Malaysia, comes from several sources, including the national government, but all these budgetary sources are strained by tighter public budgets and greater demands. The present study investigates the introduction of visitor entrance fees to supplement an otherwise inadequate budget for supporting the operational costs of the sanctuary. Factor analysis and a double-bounded contingent valuation method were combined to estimate tourists’ willingness to pay (WTP) the proposed entrance fee. Factor analysis showed that respondents’ motivation to support the NECC with user fees is conditioned by their direct experiences with elephants, their satisfaction with NECC’s educational programs and services, and other experiences it gives to users. The WTP model considered respondents’ four motivation factors with their sociodemographic characteristics. Since NECC visitors arrive from both within and outside the country, this study suggests to center managers a two-tier fee structure (residents vs. nonresidents of Malaysia), based upon mean WTP estimates. This study further suggests that revenue from such an entrance fee for NECC could support the Center’s management and development costs.