Tourism development is considered a key accompanying strategy in creating alternative livelihood options for the communities living in and adjacent to the Marine Protected Areas. This paper examines the socioeconomic characteristics of the Nha Trang Bay protected area to determine the factors that influence the decision to participate in tourism sectors, and analyse whether these decisions would help to improve the economic wellbeing of the local communities. Using a mixed-method approach, including a strategic model and analysis of household surveys, the paper shows that tourism development has not yet helped to improve economic well-being of the communities, as was expected. The primary factors that prevent local residents from participating in the tourism industry are low levels of education, long distances between homes and tourism destinations, and perceptions of the effects of tourism. Thus, improving education and supporting the communities to meet multiple social and ecological goals should be a priority policy.
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