Economic Value and Public Perceptions of Whale Shark Tourism in Nosy Be

Published on
14 October 2021

Economic Value and Public Perceptions of Whale Shark Tourism in Nosy Be, Madagascar

Ziegler, Jackie A.; Diamant, Stella; Pierce, Simon J.; Bennett, Rhett; Kiszka, Jeremy J.


Nosy Be in northwestern Madagascar is home to a globally important whale shark (Rhincodon typus) aggregation and a growing whale shark tourism industry. However, whale sharks are not protected in Malagasy waters and are threatened by fisheries bycatch, collisions with vessels, and disturbance from tourism. We used tourist questionnaires (n = 488) to assess the economic value of, and tourist perceptions of, whale shark tourism in Nosy Be from September to December 2019. We also surveyed whale shark tour operators (n = 12) in December 2018 to understand their perceptions of tourism management needs in the region. Results suggest the Nosy Be whale shark tourism industry was worth US$1.5 million for the 3-month 2019 whale shark season. “Dedicated” whale shark divers (i.e., those who came specifically to Nosy Be to swim with whale sharks) spent 55% more money overall and six times the amount individually compared to “casual” whale shark divers. Both tourists and operators supported the protection of whale sharks, with the majority (88.9%) of tourists agreeing that they would choose a tourism destination at which whale sharks are protected. However, tour operators did note significant management issues (e.g., overcrowding, lack of regulations/training), recommending the need to better regulate whale shark tourism and interactions. This study emphasizes the economic rationale for protecting whale sharks in Madagascar to safeguard the emerging marine tourism industry and ensure it is being sustainably managed.

Tourism in Marine Environments, Volume 16, Number 3, 2021, pp. 167-182(16). DOI: 10.3727/154427321X16223819324721


Leave a Reply