The present study aims to fill these gaps by estimating the economic benefits to tourists associated with the PBAE award on Costa Rican beaches.
Beaches are multi-attribute goods. In choosing which beach to visit, users may take into account the various attributes of beaches, such as proximity, water quality, beach width, cleanliness and amenities. Ecological awards (or indeed, certification) may change the levels that these various attributes take, such that a PBAE beach may have very high levels water quality and cleanliness compared to a non-PBAE beach. PBAE awards may also introduce new attributes to the choice set (e.g. user fee). For this reason, choice experiments (from hereon, CEs) are considered the most appropriate tool in the context of the present study. By identifying the marginal WTP for the key attributes of PBAE beaches, the benefits associated with the various Blue Flag criteria can be identified.
Preparation of the final survey instrument will entail standard procedures: review of past literature, focus groups and piloting of questionnaire. The final questionnaire will elicit information on: socio-economic and demographic characteristics of respondents; reasons for travel to Costa Rica, distance travelled, costs incurred; beach visitation behaviour; generic environmental attitude questions; knowledge, attitudes and behaviour associated with Blue Flag beaches; and the valuation section.
This study will identify those attributes of the PBAE award that generate the highest benefits for users, which in turn will provide key information to the PBAE commission and to the beach communities on which certification criteria to focus efforts on. This will potentially raise the profile of PBAE beaches amongst tourists, and potentially increase visitation rates to PBAE beach communities. Additionally, this study will estimate the potential revenue that could be raised, through appropriate payment mechanisms, to support the continued development and maintenance of PBAE beaches in Costa Rica.