It is hoped that the development of ecotourism will ultimately eliminate the negative impacts of tourism on environmental and ecological systems. This study applies the contingent valuation method to assess the economic values of services provided by forested trails newly opened for recreational purposes. The objective is to evaluate the benefits received by the two main user groups: local residents and visitors to the three trails in I-Lan County, Taiwan. In Taiwan, the demand for outdoor recreation is increasing and trails in marginal forest areas have to deal with the conflicting needs for recreation and conservation. The monetary valuation results show that the three forested trails have significant values for both visitors and residents and that to develop ecotourism for the purposes of trail use and conservation will benefit both groups. However, local residents value the trails more than visitors due to their higher reliance on them and their interactions with them: the residents have long lived in the local villages and have relied on their surroundings to earn their living. The visitors, by contrast, visit the trails only occasionally. The authors conclude that the sustainable development of ecourism can maintain the values generated from the trails and deal successfully with the conflict of needs between recreational exploitation and conservation.
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