Challenges and Solutions for Applying the Travel Cost Demand Model to Geographically Remote Visitor Destinations: A Case Study of Bear Viewing at Katmai National Park and Preserve


Tranditional travel cost models have unique difficulties when applied to remote destinations, primarily from lack of variation in the dependent variable which is the number of trips taken over a set time frame. There are approaches to overcome the limitations of traditional travel cost models, and this case study applies an adaptation of the standard model to estimate recreation benefits of bear viewing at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. For many visitors, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This paper offers an alternative type of trip frequency travel cost demand model that has modest data requirements and is relatively easy to implement with existing data available from tourism economic surveys, which is then applied to this particular national park in Alaska.


Many premiere destinations throughout the world are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, several of which provide outstanding wildlife tourism opportunities like Antarctica, Galapagos Islands, Kenya, and the Great Barrier Reef. These places also face threats to the quality of the visitor experience, and one ofmany justifications for protecting them might be economic benefits to visitors which can be a challenging model to create. Wide variation in travel costs is needed for the standard trip frequency travel cost model commonly used to evaluate destinations, however remote destinations like Katmai National Park have visitors who rarely make more than one trip per year, much less multiple times in a lifetime. 

Tourism is one of Alaska's largest industries with wildlife viewing consistantly ranking among the most popular recreation activities, much of which takes place at or near Alaska's protected areas. Two types of economic outcome sare possible for wildlife viewing: economic impacts/contributions which captures how the money spent by tourists support the local economy, and consumer surplus which captures the economic value of the experience for the individual visitor and is the individual's willingness to pay above the cost actually paid for the experience. Knowing consumer surplus can inform land management decisions and guide more efficient allocation of resources, and can also provide a better understanding of societal benefits of park visitation.

Even with the availability of such data, statistical estimation of recreation demand models for remote destinations can be challenging. Therefore, this paper adapts standard travel cost method to estimate a demand model for consumer surplus value for Katmai National Park which is only accessible by plane or small boat.

Related Methods

Case study research is used to conduct an in-depth investigation of an issue at a specific instance and location.
Use of data that was collected by individuals other than the investigator. This includes newspapers, census data, maps, etc. Secondary data analysis is often a starting point for other social science research methods.

Related Partners

Most people know that the National Park Service cares for national parks, a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural and recreational sites across the nation. The treasures in this system -- the first of its kind in the world -- have been set aside by the American people to preserve, protect, and share, the legacies of this land.
The USGS serves the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

Books and Publications

  • Leslie Richardson, Christopher Huber & John Loomis (2017) Challenges and Solutions for Applying the Travel Cost Demand Model to Geographically Remote Visitor Destinations: A Case Study of Bear Viewing at Katmai National Park and Preserve, Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 22:6, 550-563, DOI: 10.1080/10871209.2017.1369196