To estimate recreational value of an environmental resource or site that is used for tourism recreational purpose, travel cost method (TCM) is the most commonly used method by the environmental economists. The basic premise of this method is that the time and travel cost expenses which tourists incur to visit a site represent the “price” of access to that particular site. Thus, people’s willingness to pay (WTP) to visit the site can be found out based on the number of trips that they make at different travel costs. Originally, Harold Hotelling suggested the TCM in 1947, when theUS National Park Service wanted to know how economic principles could be utilized to demonstrate economic values produced by National Parks. Hotelling suggested that the travel costs an individual incurs to visit a recreation site could be utilized as an implicit price for that site’s services. Clawson (1959) developed a travel cost model within the economic framework (1966). Later a number of travel cost models were developed to estimate the recreational value. Among various methods, the Clawson and Knetsch method is most popular and is empirically tested in developing countries as well(1991). Mainly, there are two versions of this method i.e zonal travel cost method (ZTCM) and individual travel cost method (ITCM). Zonal travel cost method (ZTCM) version was used in the present study as tourists come to the city from different states of India. In this method, the visitors are divided into different zones e.g. concentric circles around the study site. A visitation rate is then calculated for each zone, which is defined as follows:
Visitation rate = (Number of visits to the site per year from the zone)/ (Total population of the zone)
In this way, the effect of population on visitation is accounted for. The visitation rate speaks about the average number of visits made by each resident of the zone to the site during a year. In the present study, based on data collected from the tourists during the survey, the relationship between visitation rate and travel cost was worked out using regression analysis. This led to the creation of a so-called “whole experience” demand curve based on visitation rates. To estimate the consumer surplus accruing from the site, the “whole experience” demand curve was used to estimate the actual number of visitors and also to visualize as to how the numbers would change according to different hypothetical entrance fees at the recreational site- in essence constructing a classic inverse demand curve. It was assumed that an entrance fee was viewed by the visitors in the same way as travel costs to reach the site. It was also assumed that households had equal taste and preferences. The total area under this demand curve would give the total economic benefits of the site to the visitors (US Water Resource Council, 1983). The travel cost method has some common biases like multi-site visit, multi-purpose visit and opportunity cost of travel & on-site time that were properly addressed during data collection stage and during the analysis stage as well.
Data Collection and Responses:
A questionnaire was prepared for the tourists to record the details about place of residence, the mode of transport used, cost of travel, time spent on travel etc. Information about the socio-economic status like occupation, education and household income was also sought. Some pertinent questions on urban greenery, city’s parks/gardens and environmental conservation were specifically asked from the respondents and in this way tourists’ perception and interest in these fields were obtained. One such question was about the most liked tourist site in the city and the reasons thereof. Out of 904 tourists-families, 568 answered this question. Rest either could not decide about the choice or mentioned that all sites were equally good. Nek Chand’s Rock Garden, received maximum number of responses (392/568) followed by Sukhna lake (132/568). Majority of the tourists mentioned that they had not visited such kind of garden in the past and according to them Rock garden presented a wonderful example of environmental conservation by creating beauty out of waste. About 89% of tourist families considered that urban parks and gardens of the city were responsible to the extent of more than seventy five percent in making city attractive from tourism point of view and other features of the city like its unique architecture, infrastructure, culture etc accounted for less than twenty five percent weight age in this regard. Target Groups Interviews were taken in person during the summer and winter seasons of the year2002-03. All the tourists, willing to participate in the survey, were included in the study. Care was taken that the sample must represent the true population as far as possible, taking proper proportion of “frequent visitors” (mostly from neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana) and other “non-frequent visitors”, mostly from far distant areas. All the interviews were conducted at prominent tourist places of the city like Rock Garden, Sukhana Lake, Rose Garden and Leisure valley. Before filling up of questionnaire, the tourists were asked specifically asked to mention about the primary objective of their visit to the city. If their purpose of visit to the city was not tourism, then they were not considered for the interview. Only adult visitors i.e. above 20 years in age and head of the family/group, who had a defined source of income, were interviewed because they were considered as more realistic in making personal valuations of their recreational experience at the site vis-à-vis their budget constraint (1994). During the course of survey, a total of 1120 groups were interviewed taking in to account the representative samples of frequent and non-frequent visitors. Out of this, 154 were excluded as their main objective of the visit to the city was not tourism, while 62 groups /families produced incomplete information. Thus there were 904 complete questionnaires or respondents.