Valuation of recreational benefits and assessment of tourists satisfaction in Kakamega forest, Kenya
Mugambi, David Gilbert
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Forests have both use and non-use values and play an important role in promoting sociocultural and economic development of a country. Forest provides a good habitat for wildlife and varied species biodiversity. They are also a major tourist destination as they provide recreational services. One example of such forest is Kakamega forest (KF) in Western Kenya. This forest is divided into Kakamega Forest National Reserve and Kakamega Forest Reserve which are managed by Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and Forest Department (FD), currently Kenya Forest Service respectively. The purpose of this study was to apply the Zonal Travel Cost Method (TCM) to estimate the recreational value Kakamega forest. Further, the study aimed to establish the relationship between the destinations attributes and tourists' overall level of satisfaction. To achieve these objectives the researcher relied on two sources of data. First, to estimate the recreational value using the TCM, data on tourists' numbers and the countries of origin was collected from past records in Kenya Wildlife Services and Forest Department offices, travel agents and other government offices. Secondly, to establish the level of satisfaction 300 questionnaires were administered to the tourists who visited KF from August 2005 to November 2005. The data were sorted, coded and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Scientist (SPSS) software. The data were presented using tables, frequencies and percentages. Correlations and regressions analysis were carried out to establish the relationship between the destination attributes and tourists' satisfaction. The result from this study shows that KWS has higher recreational value of Ksh. 280 Million (US$ 3.7 Million) than FD with Ksh. 191 Million (US$ 2.6 Million). The satisfaction results shows that KF is a potential tourists destination offering a satisfying experience to tourists (mean satisfaction = 5.38). The results show that twenty nine destination attributes determine the tourist overall level of satisfaction while visiting KF. These factors relate to key hospitality variables like tangibles, responsibilities, reliability, assurance and empathy. Further, the results show that the tourists' satisfaction relates to sources of information about the forest and the interests for visiting the forest. These findings are important to tourist planners, managers and promoters. Based upon the results the study concludes by giving several recommendations on promotion of conservation of KF, while increasing tourists' satisfaction.