Managing tourism in national parks : case studies of Taman Negara and Kinabalu Park, Malaysia
This study aims to examine the concept of national parks as tourists destination. It will explore the relationship between tourism and conservation; discuss specific issues of tourism planning in national parks; and propose a conceptual framework of tourism management in national parks which will examine how visitor recreational opportunities are influenced by three main factors: visitor management, service management and resource management. Taman Negara, the largest national park in Malaysia, located in the central part of Peninsular Malaysia and Kinabalu Park, situated in the northern part of the island of Borneo are utilised as case studies. These two national parks are among the oldest national parks in Malaysia, having established themselves as important tourist destinations. They are considered by the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) as promising tourism destinations associated with 'nature-based' or 'ecotourism' and are being promoted as important 'add-on' destinatio ns in an effort to increase tourists length of stay and to stimulate regional development. The primary data in this study has two main purposes. The first is to examine the socio-demographic profile of local and foreign visitors to the parks; determine the differences in their trip characteristics; their perception of the park's services and facilities; and their evaluation on the charges of facilities and user fees. The second is to examine the socio-demographic characteristics of local communities living in the vicinity of the parks and explore the economic, environmental and socio-cultural impacts of tourism as perceived by the local communities. Findings of the study highlights the different characteristics of local and foreign visitors to the parks, such as their perception on the information and interpretative services; user fees in the parks; and the favourable perception of local communities towards the development of tourism. Foreign visitors perceived the information and interpretative services provided local visitors, while the latter perceived the user fees in the park to be higher compared to former. Strategy implication for the parks include the introduction a two-tier entrance fee, park personnel who are knowledgeable in various fields, besides natural sciences and a more active involvement of the park management with the related tourism agencies and local communities.