Tourism in the islands:
Tourism began in Port Blair (the capital city as well as a bustling commercial hub) in the late 1970s with the opening of a hotel called Andaman Beach Resort by the Travel Corporation of India Limited. In the 1980s and 1990s, more hotels came up in Port Blair. For about 20 years, until 2000-01, tourism grew at a slow pace. It was limited to lower & middle class and backpack tourists. It was not high volume tourism (Jadwet, 2007). Till 2000-01, majority of the tourists roamed in and around Port Blair with main tourist attractions being the Cellular jail, Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (MGMNP) near Wandoor, Ross Island, Chatham Saw Mill, Corbyn’s cove beach, Mini Zoo and various museums in the city. Out of the above tourist places; MGMNP remained the most important spot as this park could provide a single platform for viewing tropical flora and fauna of the islands including marine diversity. It was established in 1983 with a view to protect and conserve the biodiversity of coral reefs, mangroves and other marine ecosystems. Rich marine life in this park consists of variety of coral reefs, colorful fishes like Starfish & Angelfish; Mollusks, Shells, Turtles and Saltwater crocodiles etc. One can also find a variety of birds here like White-bellied Sea eagle, Andaman Teal, Reef Heron, Terns, Parakeets and Swifts. For the period earlier to 2001, if some one says that it would be difficult to locate a tourist coming to these islands and not paying a visit to this Park, then he was cent percent right. In other words, number of tourists visiting this park during that period would approximately be same as those coming to the islands .
Valuation of non-market benefits or intangible benefits i.e. their proper quantification in terms of money has been a challenging task for the environmental economists since long. Tourism recreational aspect of natural resources like that available in A & N Islands has been one of such non – market benefits. Among various proposed methodologies; travel cost method (TCM) and contingent valuation method (CVM) have received special attention among natural resource economists. TCM is usually applied in estimating the on-site recreation (tourism) use value of a natural area, while CVM is used to find economic value of the most of the non-market goods and services.