Authors: Rahul J. Shrivastava and Joel T. Heinen

Paper Abstract: Tourism is increasingly becoming theme-specific in India and has attracted new interest from the government and private sector. India accounts for 0.37% of international tourist arrivals and 0.66% of the world tourism revenue. International arrivals numbered 2.54 million in 2001, while domestic travelers were estimated at 234 million. The Union Budget of 2002-03 announced the development of six new international tourism circuits in the country, including Guwahati-Kaziranga-Shillong-Tawang in the northeast.
During the past decade, tourist arrivals at Kaziranga National Park, home to the endangered one-horned rhinoceros have fluctuated due to political unrest, with the situation improving in recent years. In 2000-01, under a larger study of park-people relations at Kaziranga, a questionnaire based pilot survey was undertaken to develop a profile of the visitors, their wildlife interests and willingness to pay. The random sample comprised 10 respondents, domestic and foreign. Mean respondent age was 42.1 years (SE = 5.2, SD = 16.3), 27.6% of domestic visitors were < 18 years with no foreign visitors in that age class. Length of stay and willingness to pay for viewing wildlife differed significantly between foreign and domestic visitors. Foreign visitors stayed longer and were willing to spend more. An overwhelming 80% of all visitors derived maximum enjoyment from viewing rhinos compared to other species. Domestic visitors preferred to make monetary donations benefiting wildlife/livestock veterinary services, while foreigners were keen on local employment and Park protection. The survey identified key differences between domestic and foreign visitors and found potential for expanding community involvement in deriving benefits from nature-based tourism.

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Source: Department of Environmental Studies and Southeast Environmental Research Center, Florida International University