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Abstract

Coastal coral reefs, especially in the Florida Keys, are declining at a disturbing rate. Marine ecologists and reef scientists have emphasized the importance of establishing nonmarket values of coral reefs to assess the cost effectiveness of coral reef management and remediation programs. The purpose of this paper is to develop a travel cost - contingent valuation model of demand for trips to the Florida Keys focusing on willingness to pay (WTP) to preserve the current water quality and health of the coral reefs. The stated and revealed preference models allow the marginal valuation of recreationists to adjust depending on current and planned trip commitments in valuing nonmarginal policy changes in recreational opportunities. The integrated model incorporates key factors for establishing baseline amenity values for tourist dive sites, including perceptions of reef quality and dive conditions, the role of substitute sites, and the quality and availability of tourist facilities and recreation opportunities. The travel cost and WTP model differ in identifying critical variables and provide insight into the adjustment of trip decisions across alternative destination sites and the valuation of trips. In contrast to the travel cost model, a measure of the availability of substitute sites and total recreation activities does not have a significant impact on WTP valuations reported by snorkelers. Snorkelers engage in a relatively focused set of activities, suggesting that these recreationists may not shift expenditures to other sites or other recreation activities in the Florida Keys when confronted with increased access costs for the snorkeling experience.

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