A travel cost model of local residents' beach recreation values on the Gold Coast
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The beach is generally recognised as the most important recreation amenity in the region for Gold Coast residents, as well as tourists. However, there is very little data to support the role that this amenity plays in the life of over 500,000 (ABS 2011) Gold Coast residents. This paper reports the results of a survey that set out to collect data from Gold Coast residents regarding their beach use and the values they associate with the beach, and to develop estimates of the economic value of the beach to residents. A mail survey of 8,000 households resulted in 1,862 responses. Over 80 per cent of respondents indicated that the beach, parks and foreshore were important to them. On average, residents visited 10 beaches per month during summer and 6 per month during winter, taking a total of 35 million visits to local beaches and foreshores parks each year. We used the individual travel cost method and limited dependent variable regression techniques to estimate the value of, and explain, resident visits to beaches. Travel costs were found to be significant in explaining visits. Females, people on higher incomes, home owners and full time employees take fewer visits to beaches while larger households take more. We also found that visits to multiple sites were compliments rather than substitutes. The value of recreational benefits to Gold Coast residents was found to be between $365 million and $1.7 billion depending on whether fuel costs alone or full travel costs, including time, are used in the model. These estimates are invaluable to decision makers in resolving pressing policy issues such as adaptation options to climate change or budget allocations in maintaining beach services. Limitations and future areas for research are outlined in the paper.
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