Marine conservation tourism and local communities: The case of Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Ery Atmodjo

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Across the world marine protected areas (MPA) have been established to overcome degradation of marine resources from illegal and destructive activities, and overexploitation.  Quantity and coverage of MPA worldwide is growing.  As poverty is one of driver s for destructive fishing and breaking MPA rules, especially in developing countries, breaking the poverty trap through alternative livelihood activities is an important strategy in MPA management.   In many of these of MPAs marine tourism has been adopted as alternative source of livelihood and a way to generate funding for MPA management and conservation measures.  Marine conservation tourism is a type of tourism that has potential to contribute to achievement of dual objectives of conservation and local livelihood improvement.  In this concept, MPAs provide ecosystem services e.g. nature and wildlife viewing and experiences, and tourists pay for consuming these ecosystem services.  In addition, marine tourism in MPAs is considered to provide opportunities for alternative livelihoods for local communities living within and close to MPAs. 

Raja Ampat in West-Papua Province Indonesia can be regarded as a special case of marine conservation tourism. It is regarded as the heart of the Coral Triangle: the most species rich area of any ocean in the world, which reflects its important position with regard to conservation efforts within the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI).  Marine tourism activities have been deliberately deployed and promoted to support the management of a network of MPAs in Raja Ampat, as well as the local communities within these MPAs. Marine tourism in Raja Ampat has been growing rapidly during the last 20 years, in terms of number of tourists and tourism operators.  Despite threats to its marine resources, marine tourism in Raja Ampat archipelago is heavily promoted as the last paradise on earth.  State as well as non-state actors are participating in the governance arrangements for marine conservation tourism in Raja Ampat.

The objective of this thesis has been to analyse marine conservation tourism governance arrangements and the implications of marine conservation tourism for various stakeholders in Raja Ampat. More specifically it aims to understand the roles of non-state actors in the evolution of governance arrangements for marine tourism and conservation in Raja Ampat, as well as the impact of various policies aimed at shaping benefits of marine conservation tourism for local communities of Raja Ampat.  As Raja Ampat is part of wider marine conservation initiatives, i.e. BHS and CTI, it is important to learn from these experiences for managing marine tourism, conservation and community livelihood in other marine destinations.  The following two research questions were defined to achieve the research objective:

How has marine conservation tourism in Raja Ampat been co-governed over the last decades, and what role have non-state actors played in the evolving governance arrangements?How has the regional policy of community-based tourism in Raja Ampat been implemented in terms of its congruency with the customary right regime and its effect on local community engagement, as well as on tourism benefit distribution to the local community?

A case study using multi-method approach was selected.  The case study is investigated through the collection of primary data from semistructured interviews, (participatory) observations, survey, supplemented with secondary data from literature, policy documents, published and unpublished reports.

Chapter 2 illustrates shifts in co-governance arrangements for marine conservation tourism of Raja Ampat.  During the last two decades different co-governance arrangements with different governance mode co-existed to achieve parts of marine conservation objectives.  Indonesia’s decentralization policy has open opportunity for non-state actors, i.e. international NGOs, tourism entrepreneurs, international agencies, environmental philanthropists, and local communities, to participate in marine conservation tourism development of Raja Ampat.  International NGOs were playing the leading roles in marine conservation tourism of Raja Ampat.  They played multiple roles, e.g. in conservation campaign, MPAs establishment, coordinating actions of other actors, financing, and capacity building for local communities and local government.  The main role of the international NGOs was changed over time until they stepped back to only provide scientific information support due to project termination and regulations preventing NGOs from operating private MPA.  State actor, i.e. the MPA authority was forced to play important role in marine conservation tourism of Raja Ampat.  Co-government arrangements were shifted from open-decentralized governance to a more close-centralized governance.

Chapter 3 illustrates on of co-governance arrangements of marine conservation tourism of Raja Ampat, i.e. tourism entrance fee.  Two successive entrance fee system, i.e. Raja Ampat Entrance Fee and Raja Ampat Ecosystem Service Stewardship Fee respectively, were analysed using payment of ecosystem services (PES) framework.  The PES-like entrance fee system improved in term of participation, transparency, and equity.  However, connection between fund disbursement and environmental service provision (conditionality) is still not improved.  In addition, challenges in equitable community fund disbursement is still exist.  While participation of local communities is improved in the design of the second entrance fee system, no local community members involved in the management of entrance fee.  Private actors participation in the management of entrance fee also declined while international NGOs were embedded in MPA authority institution participating in the entrance fee system. 

Chapter 4 illustrate the role of customary law over resource ownership in the proliferation of homestays in Raja Ampat.  Group-based policy in providing subsidy made by local government of Raja Ampat based on community-based and pro-poor tourism to direct benefit of tourism development to local communities is incongruent with prevailing customary law over resource ownership.  Tourism groups receiving government subsidies to build and operate homestays gradually dismissed, and homestays are lately claimed by those who own customary rights over the land where the homestays are built.  Those who own customary rights over land that suitable to build homestay build homestay to get benefit of increasing tourist visit and to obtain subsidy from the local government.  The proliferation of homestay has potential to threat sustainability, both environment as well as tourism sustainability.

Chapter 5 illustrate the flow of marine tourism benefit to marine tourism stakeholders of Raja Ampat.  Pathways to prosperity and tourism value chain are used in the analysis.  Survey was the principal data collection method, complemented by secondary data from Tourism office and MPA authority, and (participation) observation.  Tourism development policy of Raja Ampat has made local community members participation in core activities of marine tourism possible.  Homestay business contributes the large parts of tourism benefit flow to local communities in forms of streams of revenue and donation.  While resort operators contributes the larger benefit in terms of job opportunity, liveaboard operators contributes the least benefit of tourism to local communities as they have very little contact with local communities in villages.    Lack of linkage between tourism and other economic sector in the locality such as fishery and agriculture indicates tourism leakage as well as inequitable benefit distribution to the wider local community members. 

Chapter 6 concludes that evolving co-governance arrangements for marine conservation tourism of Raja Ampat implies the endless work of conservation effort.  International NGOs have played constructive role in marine conservation tourism development of Raja Ampat, which resulted in fairly great achievement in the form of local community participation in tourism.  However, they have plan to step back from the governance and push the government to play more important role due to limit of project duration and ineligibility to operate private MPA.  Incongruency affected marine conservation tourism co-governance arrangements, which resulted from institutional settings, economic developments, and particular policies.  This chapter also concludes that inequitable benefit distribution especially in relation to lack of economic linkage between tourism and other local economic sector is typical to island tourism.  Finally, conclusion about effect of customary ownership rights on marine tourism benefit distribution in this research has lack of consistency with research result in other location, so that more research with similar research questions like in this research is important.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Mol, Arthur, Promotor
  • Lamers, Machiel, Co-promotor
Award date1 Dec 2020
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463955850
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Marine conservation tourism and local communities: The case of Raja Ampat, Indonesia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this