Edited by Paulo A.L.D. Nunes, Pushpam Kumar and Tom Dedeurwaerdere
Chapter 20: A choice experiment to value the recreational benefits of coral reefs: a case study of Ras Mohammed National Park, Egypt
Ras Mohammed National Park was declared in 1983 and covers an area of 460 km2. The area includes the islands of Tiran and Sanafir and all shorelines fronting the Sharm El-Sheikh tourism development area. The park is home to some of the most spectacular coral reefs and best-known SCUBA diving areas in the world. This recognition is based on the diversity of flora and fauna, clear warm water devoid of pollutants, its proximity to shorelines and its breathtaking beauty. This combination plus its accessibility in most weather conditions and relative proximity for European tourists form the basis of Ras Mohammed's popularity as a tourist destination. The number of visitors to Ras Mohammed increased from hundreds in 1988 to more than 1 million in 2009. A total of 495 382 people visited the old boundaries of Ras Mohammed in the fiscal year 2008/09, of which 471 142 (95 per cent) were foreign tourists (EEAA, 2009). The volume of tourists and the intensive recreational use by snorkellers and SCUBA divers have degraded the reefs. The reef degradation and the loss of productivity and biodiversity could have serious consequences. It is threatening the ecological services provided to millions of other dependent species and the numerous benefits provided to people. Lack of awareness, insufficient enforcement of protective legislation, market failure and undervaluation of benefits are the root causes of several threats to coral reefs.
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