Consumer Choice and Price Determination in Spinner Dolphin Tours in Hawaii

Abstract

Boat-based tours to see dolphins in the wild in Hawaii may adversely affect dolphins at rest in the nearshore marine environment. NMFS is considering policies to protect wild spinner dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands from human "takes", as defined in the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and its implementing regulations, stemming from such dolphin tours. To understand the economic impacts and effectiveness of potential dolphin protection policies, the PIFSC Economics Program launched a pilot study entitled 'Valuation of Spinner Dolphin Excursions'.

Through conjoint analysis, this study investigated the factors that affect a consumer's willingness to pay (WTP) for spinner dolphin excursions. The study found that boat type, boat size (i.e., number of passengers), guarantee of seeing a dolphin, proximity to (swimming with or viewing) a dolphin, and tour price are important factors considered by participants in making a decision to go on a dolphin tour. The study also estimated the marginal value of these factors in determining the WTP for spinner dolphin excursions in Hawaii. The survey participants expressed their willingness to pay more for swimming with dolphins than they would pay for the excursion option of just viewing dolphins. This may imply that the demand for swimming with the dolphins could be high. According to the study, the majority of survey participants thought that viewing or swimming with dolphins in the wild is an acceptable activity for the environment and for dolphins. However, participants may be willing to choose not to take a dolphin excursion if they know that viewing or swimming with dolphins in the wild is found negatively to affect dolphin behavior. This result suggests that educational programs could be an effective way to enhance dolphin conservation.

Reports

Hu W, Boehle K, Cox L, Pan M
2009. Economic Values of Dolphin Excursions in Hawaii: A Stated Choice Analysis. Marine Resource Economics, 24(1): 61-76.