Estimating the Recreation Demand and Economic Value of Mountain Biking in Moab, Utah: An Application of Count Data Models

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Place: Moab

Overview

This study found that mountain bikers visiting the Moab, Utah trail system spent an average of $282 per trip and visited 2.5 times per year. Rather than a specific trail, as was studied in the Fix and Loomis (1997) Slickrock Trail study, this study evaluated the benefits of the Moab area’s whole mountain bike trail system.

Relevance

Keeping in mind Moab’s position as a premier mountain biking destination, these findings may be useful for a gauge of the type of visitation and spending achievable with an extensive and destination-worthy trail system. Given the low response rate, it is likely that those who returned surveys are particularly avid users, which would lead to an overestimate of use, spending, and benefits relative to the average mountain biker.

Location

This study was conducted on trails in and around Moab, Utah, including Carbon, Emery, Grand (where Moab is located), and San Juan Counties. The populations of Moab (5,087 in 2013) and Grand County (9,269 in 2013) are small, but the area is an extremely popular tourism destination with more than one million visitors to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks combined annually. It is also a top destination for mountain bikers, with over 100,000 visitors annually to the Slickrock Trail alone.

Trail Type

The survey covered all mountain biking trails in the Moab area.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to estimate the demand for mountain biking and the value per mountain biking trip in a major mountain biking destination. Other studies in the area focused on a single trail, such as Slickrock Trail, but this one focused on the attractiveness of an entire area. The authors suggest the results can be used to prioritize construction and maintenance funds between different user groups, and to justify allocating funds for mountain bike-specific trails to alleviate congestion and conflict. The Utah Agricultural Experiment Station provided partial support for this project.

Findings

Respondents visited the area an average of 2.5 times in the previous year, and spent $282 during the trip (including travel to Moab and expenses incurred while staying in Moab). Most respondents were male (82%) and well-educated (16 years on average). Of all respondents, 44 percent reported that they traveled with children under five during their last trip.

The best-fitting model shows that individuals’ total benefit for a trip to Moab for mountain biking is $586. At the average of 2.5 visits per year, the average visitor receives $1,483 of benefits annually.

Methods

The authors sent mail surveys to individuals who had registered with a Moab mountain bike rental store in the summer of 1994. Of the 950 surveys sent out, 180 usable surveys were returned, or a response rate of 19 percent. Respondents answered questions regarding the number of trips taken to Moab in the previous year, expenses incurred during the most recent trip, and demographic information including household income. These data were used to estimate a predictive model of users’ travel costs, calculating how much each trip cost, both in direct expenditures and the opportunity cost of not working in order to visit.

Citation

Chakraborty, K., and J. Keith. 2000. “Estimating the recreation demand and economic value of mountain biking in Moab, Utah: an application of count data models.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 43(4): 461-469.