4.1 Visitor statistics
4.2 General opinions of Pulau Payar Marine Park
4.3 Information from tour operators
4.4 Information from divers and dive operators
Since visitor numbers were first recorded in 1988, the growth in tourists arrivals to Pulau Payar Marine Park has been staggering, leaping from 1,373 visitors in 1988 to 70,419 visitors in 1995 (Table 4.1, Fig 4.1) (Visitor statistics are inclusive of visitors to the Marine Park Centre and the Langkawi Coral Pontoon). The Marine Park has thus seen a more than 5000% increase in visitors in the last seven years. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, the most important being the growth of Pulau Langkawi as a tourist destination and the easy accessibility of the Marine Park from Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Pinang and Kuala Kedah.
TABLE 4.1 - NUMBER OF VISITORS TO PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK PER ANNUM
NUMBER OF VISITORS
* Visitor numbers till July 1996
Source: Department of Fisheries Malaysia
FIG. 4.1: NUMBER OF VISITORS TO PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK PER ANNUM
The majority of tourists to Pulau Payar Marine Park now are foreigners (66.7% of the total number of visitors in 1995), as compared to previously in 1988, when Malaysians formed the bulk of the visitors (76.4%) (Fig. 4.2).
The Taiwanese and Japanese are the main foreign nationalities that visit Pulau Payar Marine Park. Malaysians also make up a large proportion of the visitors. This is reflected in the visitor numbers for the study period (April-July, 1996) (Fig. 4.3).
FIG. 4.2: RELATIVE PROPORTIONS OF MALAYSIAN AND FOREIGN TOURISTS TO PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK IN 1988 AND 1995
FIG. 4.3: NATIONALITIES OF VISITORS TO PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK. APRIL JULY 1996
A total of 1009 tourist questionnaires were answered by tourists at the Marine Park Centre and Langkawi Coral Pontoon. Unless otherwise indicated, the time frame of the survey results is between April and July 1996. Results are in percentages and are taken as a proportion of the questions answered.
Of those surveyed, 80.06% stated that they chose specifically to visit the Marine Park whilst the remainder were on the island as part of a package or island hopping tour where they could not influence the itinerary. The fact that Pulau Payar Marine Park offers visitors an opportunity to dive and/or snorkel and observe marine life and coral reefs was the main factor in influencing choice to visit (Fig. 4.4). A total of 54.16% of respondents rated this as a very important factor. Less important was the status of the area as a Marine Park; 38.92% of respondents rated this as a very important factor. Distance from the access points did not make much of a difference; only 23.95% of those surveyed rated this factor as very important.
FIG. 4.4: IMPORTANT FACTORS INFLUENCING TOURISTS' DECISION TO VISIT PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK
Department of Fisheries data from January 1996 show that a very high percentage (92.91%) of visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park depart from Pulau Langkawi, with the remainder leaving from Pulau Pinang and Kuala Kedah (Fig. 4.5). This is reflected in the survey results whereby 86.36% of those surveyed were staying in Pulau Langkawi.
FIG. 4.5: LAST PORT OF EMBARKATION FOR TOURISTS TO PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK. JANUARY - JULY 1996
Most of the visitors were in Pulau Payar for the first time (93.43%), whilst the remaining visitors (6.57%) were repeat visitors (Fig. 4.6). Those that had been to the Marine Park before noticed that the number of visitors overall and the number of divers and snorkellers have increased dramatically.
All tourists visiting the Marine Park during the study period were on a day trip. Trips are packages arranged by the tour operators, and the fare includes transfers, lunch and snorkelling equipment. The Pulau Payar Marine Park day trip can be booked directly from Pulau Langkawi, or alternatively be part of a larger package tour to Pulau Langkawi which would have been booked from the respective home countries. At times, this package would include trips to other islands (usually Pulau Singa and Pulau Dayang Bunting off Pulau Langkawi) or a fishing trip outside of the Marine Park. During the study period, no one utilised the camping options available.
FIG. 4.6: TYPE OF VISITOR TO PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK
4.2.1 Activities and facilities
4.2.2 Perception of crowding and satisfaction
4.2.3 Marine Parks and conservation awareness
Pulau Payar Marine Park is blessed with a number of attributes which render it attractive to the visitor. Not least among them are its natural resources and the marine environment. The majority of visitors to the island were there to appreciate the beauty of the marine and coral reef environment. Water sports activities were pursued actively, the most popular being snorkelling (81.12%) and swimming (50.21%) (Fig. 4.7). A large proportion of tourists chose to spend time relaxing (60.55%) and sunbathing (32.38%), especially on the beach. Another immensely popular activity is fish feeding (54.75%), whereby bread is given to fish, and juvenile black tip reef sharks that come to the Marine Park Centre bay are fed with fresh fish. SCUBA diving is not as actively pursued, only 23.58% of visitors participated in this activity as most of the visitors were non-specialists and were at the Marine Park for snorkelling. Furthermore, not many people (16.46%) utilised the two existing trails on the island.
FIG. 4.7: TOURIST ACTIVITIES AT PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK
Fig. 4.8 presents a breakdown on tourists' opinions on the adequacy of facilities at Pulau Payar Marine Park. In general, most found the facilities satisfactory or good. The one major complaint was about the toilets at the Marine Park Centre - the vast majority (64.16%) felt that there were not enough toilets, and complained that there was no water in the toilets and that they were dirty.
FIG. 4.8: ADEQUACY OF FACILITIES
The majority of tourists interviewed found it crowded at the Marine Park, especially at the picnic area at the Marine Park Centre itself (64.47%) (Fig. 4.9). Perception of crowding does not seem to be as acute for visitors snorkelling in the water, whether at the Marine Park Centre (48.93%) or at the Langkawi Coral Pontoon (40.83%). Data were also analysed separately for the three main nationalities of visitors to Pulau Payar Marine Park (Taiwanese, Japanese and Malaysian) (Fig. 4.10). The same general trends emerge, whereby most visitors found the Marine Park Centre crowded, and that perception of crowding in the water while snorkelling is not as acute. From the results, it also seems that Malaysians have a lower tolerance to crowding than the Taiwanese and Japanese.
When asked if an increase in visitor numbers would affect their enjoyment of Pulau Payar, 73.97% answered affirmatively.
FIG. 4.9: GENERAL PERCEPTIONS OF CROWDING AT PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK
FIG. 4.10: PERCEPTIONS OF CROWDING AMONGST THE MAIN TOURIST GROUPS AT PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK
Tourists were asked to assess criteria that would contribute towards a satisfactory visit to Pulau Payar Marine Park. Results were divided between snorkellers and non-reef users (Fig. 4.11). The most important criterion for snorkellers was clean beaches (70.80%) while that for non-reef users was beautiful scenery (56.59%). Other very important criteria for snorkellers were seeing an abundance of reef fish (60.57%) and diverse coral life (54.68%). For non-reef users, clean beaches (55.91%) and seeing an abundance of colourful reef fish (53.76%) were also very important. Criteria such as low visitor numbers were not as important comparatively. However, for snorkellers, low visitor numbers at the Marine Park Centre or Langkawi Coral Pontoon (39.73%) and low visitor numbers in the water (44.35%) were more important for a satisfactory visit than for non-reef users (34.83% and 32.40% respectively). Having peace and quiet (53.08%, 46.37%), friendly and helpful Marine Park staff or Langkawi Coral Pontoon staff (50.37%, 44.83%), adequate facilities (47.37%, 42.46%) and adequate information on the marine environment (42.13%, 38.73%) were also fairly important criteria for both snorkellers and non-reef users respectively.
FIG. 4.11: IMPORTANCE OF FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TOWARDS A SATISFACTORY VISIT FOR SNORKELLERS AND NON-REEF USERS
Satisfaction with the different factors that contribute towards a visitor experience was also assessed by estimating if these criteria were met for both snorkellers and non-snorkellers (Fig. 4.12). The majority of visitors, both snorkeller and non-snorkeller, were satisfied with being able to see an abundance of reef fish at Pulau Payar Marine Park (75.06% and 67.05% respectively). Visitors however thought that visitor numbers at the Marine Park Centre or Langkawi Coral Pontoon were too high. Furthermore, non-reef users were dissatisfied with the high numbers of visitors at these places, much more so than snorkellers; only 9.14% of non-reef users rated the criterion of low visitor numbers at the Marine Park Centre or Langkawi Coral Pontoon as being met as compared to 24.63% of snorkellers. Other criteria that were not met and hence caused dissatisfaction among snorkellers and non-reef users alike were the adequacy of guided activities and the adequacy of information on the marine environment.
FIG 4.12: LEVELS OF SNORKELLER AND NON-REEF USER SATISFACTION WITH FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO A VISITOR EXPERIENCE
Most tourists (51.35%) were not aware that Pulau Payar is a Marine Park. In addition, the majority (92.09%) had not visited any other Marine Parks in Malaysia. Those that had visited other Marine Parks in Malaysia compared Pulau Payar Marine Park unfavourably with them, in terms of facilities, things to do and reef attractions (Fig. 4.13).
FIG. 4.13: A COMPARISON OF PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK WITH OTHER MARINE PARKS IN MALAYSIA
Tour operators are supposed to brief tourists on Marine Park regulations, and most of the visitors interviewed (64.81%) were indeed briefed. However, this is not sufficient as by right all visitors to the Marine Park should be thoroughly briefed. Visitors are usually briefed prior to arrival to the Marine Park or at the Marine Park Centre itself before carrying out any activities. Marine Park Rangers do not usually give briefings to tourists, as there are too many tourists, and tour operators are in a better position to brief their clients and are more able to overcome language differences.
There is a paucity of information on the Marine Park and its surrounding marine environment which is made available to tourists, especially regarding Marine Park status and information on the marine environment, whereby 57.64% and 66.93% of visitors surveyed felt that this respective information was lacking (Fig. 4.14). Information on Marine Park regulations and recreation opportunities is more readily available, as tour operators would brief their customers on these matters. The Marine Park Information Centre is terribly under-utilised, as most tourists do not even enter it. They are most probably put off by the "no entry" sign put up in front of the entrance, as Marine Park staff seem more worried that tourists with wet, sandy feet would dirty the Information Centre.
FIG. 4.14: ADEQUACY OF INFORMATION PROVISION IN PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK
Some of the future activities desired by tourists to Pulau Payar Marine Park include glass-bottomed boat rides, guided snorkelling tours and nature walks on the island (Fig. 4.15). Most of the tourists do not seem keen to watch videos or slide shows on the marine environment, although tour operators were of the opinion that these would be a worthwhile activity.
FIG. 4.15: FUTURE ACTIVITIES DESIRED BY TOURISTS AND TOUR OPERATORS
Willingness-to-pay is a measure of the economic value placed on being able to undertake specific marine tourist activities and on being able to visit specific marine and coastal tourist sites (Wong, 1997). 78.16% of the tourists interviewed were willing to pay a small fee for entry to Pulau Payar Marine Park or for participation in certain activities, if they knew that this fee would contribute to the management and conservation of the Marine Park. The proposed entry fee structure that is currently being explored by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia is two-tiered, with foreign individuals paying a sum of RM 8.00, and Malaysians paying RM 4.00. Proposed charges for students and senior citizens are half these prices, whilst local communities and fishermen are exempted. This fee structure is however currently being reviewed at the recommendation of the National Advisory Council for Marine Parks and Marine Reserves which would rather implement a single tiered and less discriminatory entry fee. In addition, there are also proposals to charge a fee for SCUBA diving and underwater photography activities in Marine Parks, although this is being reviewed at present. Also under review are proposals to charge weekly, monthly and annual levies on private boats that enter Marine Parks.
It was not possible to interview all the tour operators that bring visitors to the Marine Park; 14 of the 20-odd regular tour operators who are "registered" with the Department of Fisheries were interviewed. However, there are no limits to the issuance of permits, as long as the number of passengers do not exceed the limit imposed by the Marine Department (12 passengers a boat); this is more a safety precaution than a conservation measure. There are also no limits to the number of boats that can come in to the Marine Park per day; these vary with demand. There seem to be enough boats at the moment to cater for the number of tourists coming in, even at peak periods.
Tour operators to Pulau Payar Marine Park mostly operate from Langkawi (78.57% of those interviewed), although there are a few based in Pulau Pinang (21.43%). They offer a package day trip to the Marine Park, inclusive of transfers, a packed lunch and snorkelling equipment. Some operators (64.29%) include the Marine Park as part of the itinerary of an island hopping trip, thus they only spend approximately two hours at Pulau Payar Marine Park Centre. Other islands that they might go to as part of this island hopping trip are Pulau Singa (50.00%), Pulau Dayang Bunting (64.29%) and Pulau Beras Basah (21.42%) off Pulau Langkawi. Most of the tour operators are fairly new operations, with all of those interviewed bringing tourists to Pulau Payar Marine Park in the last 5 years or less.
Among the foreign tourists to Pulau Payar Marine Park, the two highest in numbers are the Japanese and the Taiwanese. The peak period of tourist arrivals is the foreign holiday periods, especially the Taiwanese and Japanese holidays (during winter in early January, summer in August and September, and the Japanese Golden Week in late April/early May). Other busy periods are during the holiday seasons - Malaysian school holidays, Malaysian public holidays and weekends. At this time, the majority of tour operators (83.33%) report a 76-100% occupancy of their boats.
All the tour operators offer snorkelling equipment; they usually provide their guests with masks and snorkels, and a few might even provide fins. 85.71% of tour operators stated that the vast majority (76-100%) of their customers opt to snorkel while at Pulau Payar Marine Park. About half of the tour operators interviewed could also provide diving trips, but stated that only between 0-25% of their customers would want to dive.
The majority of tour operators interviewed (69.23%) had plans to expand their operations to Pulau Payar Marine Park. This would mean bringing more tourists to the Marine Park, getting more boats to ferry tourists over and conducting more frequent trips to the Marine Park.
Most (92.86%) of the tour operators do not conduct tours to the other Marine Parks in Malaysia, i.e. those on the East Coast. Most (76.92%) are however aware of the conservation objectives of the Marine Park. All the tour operators supposedly inform their customers about Pulau Payar's Marine Park status and brief them on Marine Park regulations. This is all done by means of a talk or briefing either prior to arrival at the Marine Park or at the Marine Park Centre itself before any activities are carried out.
Future activities that tour operators are in favour of are videos/slide shows on the marine environment (81.82%), guided snorkelling tours (72.73%), nature walks on the island (54.55%) and glass-bottom boat or semi-submersible rides (45.45%) (See Fig. 4.15).
The majority of tour operators (75.00%) are willing to pay a small fee to enable their customers to enter the Marine Park, if this fee would contribute to the management and conservation of the Park. However, most of them state that they would be agreeable to the charging of fees only if the Marine Park implements proper facilities and services such as having adequate toilets, adequate tables and benches and adequate shelters for when it rains. The Department of Fisheries Malaysia is currently reviewing proposals to charge boat operators an annual fee for passenger boats that enter Marine Parks. The proposed fee charges are based on boat size or Gross Registered Tonnage, ranging from RM 500 to RM 5,000 for Malaysian operators, and RM 1,000 to RM 10,000 for foreign operators. Also being proposed are permit and licensing charges for mooring pontoons or platforms in Marine Park waters. These charges would vary depending on the size of the structure.
The major grouses from tour operators include the lack of dialogue with the Department of Fisheries (a regular formal meeting is held twice a year, which some feel is not sufficient), and the fact that they feel that their complaints are not heard. Tour operators also complain that there is a lack of enforcement on the part of the Department of Fisheries regarding the prohibition of fishing, as they sometimes see fishing vessels operating in Marine Park waters, especially at Pulau Segantang. Another complaint is that Marine Park staff are sometimes not as polite as they should be to visitors.
4.4.1 General information
4.4.2 Diver profiles
4.4.3 Diver satisfaction
4.4.4 Marine conservation awareness
4.4.5 Assessment of dive sites
There are a total of 6 dive operators who bring divers regularly to Pulau Payar Marine Park, of which all were surveyed. Occasionally, independent dive operators may bring divers to the Marine Park. The regular operators that bring divers to Pulau Payar Marine Park at the time of the study are East Marine which operates from the Langkawi Coral Pontoon, Pro Dive, SRM Holidays, Blue Marlin Dive Centre and Ocean Quest. Borneo Divers was also interviewed, although it has since shut down its operations at Pulau Langkawi/Pulau Payar, preferring to concentrate on other dive spots in Malaysia it is associated with, such as Pulau Sipadan off the Sabah coast.
Five out of the six dive operators interviewed are based in Langkawi, with Blue Marlin Dive Centre being the only one operating from Pulau Pinang. Between them, they have 8 boats, each able to accommodate a maximum of 12 divers at any one time. However, the average number of divers in a dive group is usually six.
Most of the dive operators (50.00%) stated that the average percentage of boats filled every day is only between 51-75%. However, during the peak periods (Japanese and Taiwanese holidays, Malaysian public holidays and Malaysian school holidays), the majority (75.00%) said that between 76-100% of their boats are filled then.
All the dive operators stated that the pattern of diver numbers is increasing; this is prevalent in many of Malaysia's Marine Parks due to the increasing popularity of the sport. However, they are all of the opinion that there are currently enough dive operators running dive trips to Pulau Payar Marine Park.
A total of 53 certified divers were surveyed. A large proportion of these divers could be considered novice divers (54.72%) (Fig. 4.16).
FIG. 4.16: LEVEL OF DIVING EXPERIENCE
The majority of divers were staying at Pulau Langkawi (87.50%), while the rest were from Pulau Pinang. Most of the divers were just diving for the one day (72.00%), although a small percentage (28.00%) dived for two days. Usually, two dives are made in a day, as noted by 65.39% of those surveyed. The majority of divers were diving with a group (88.02%).
79.25% of respondents were first time divers at Pulau Payar Marine Park. Those that have dived at Pulau Payar Marine Park previously perceived an increase in the number of divers and diving trips offered.
Divers were asked to assess criteria that would contribute towards a satisfactory dive (Fig. 4.17). Very important criteria were good visibility (71.15%), having an experienced dive guide or Dive Master (63.46%), a well organised dive trip (60.79%), seeing an abundance of reef fish (53.06%) and seeing an abundance and diversity of coral (52.95%).
FIG. 4.17: IMPORTANCE OF FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TOWARDS A SATISFACTORY DIVING EXPERIENCE
In terms of diver satisfaction or criteria that were met at Pulau Payar Marine Park, the majority of divers did see an abundance of reef fish (92.11%), and were satisfied with boat handling (86.96%), the organisation of the dive trip (78.38%) and the experience of their Dive Master (71.05%) (Fig. 4.18). Another criterion that was reasonably well met was the absence of large numbers of other divers (62.50%).
FIG. 4.18: LEVELS OF DIVER SATISFACTION WITH THE CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO A PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK DIVING EXPERIENCE
Most divers (54.00%) would prefer no contact with other diving groups while diving; this includes not seeing other dive boats at a specific dive site (48.08%). In terms of tolerance, the majority of divers would tolerate up to two incidences of contact with other dive groups (45.10%) and dive boats (40.39%).
More than half the divers interviewed (58.82%) said that given the opportunity, they would dive at Pulau Payar again (Fig. 4.19).
FIG. 4.19: DESIRE TO DIVE AT PULAU PAYAR MARINE PARK ON A RETURN VISIT
Most divers (61.54%) were aware that Pulau Payar is a Marine Park. This fact does influence divers in choosing to dive at Pulau Payar, with 33.33% and 36.11% of divers being influenced and greatly influenced respectively. Since Pulau Payar is a Marine Park, the majority of divers (79.17%) expected their diving experience there to be better than at other Malaysian islands which are not protected. For most divers (77.14%), this expectation was met.
In general, marine conservation awareness among divers is quite high, more so than for the average snorkeller. Perhaps the opportunity to get in close proximity with reefs and their associated life instils a better appreciation and understanding of the fragile marine environment. Dive operators felt that visiting divers to Pulau Payar Marine Park are aware of the sensitivity of the reef environment, and most (83.33%) felt that their actions whilst diving reflect this.
Most divers (69.39%) were briefed on Marine Park regulations prior to diving. This would have been done by the Dive Instructor or Dive Master. According to all the dive operators, they do brief their divers on Marine Park regulations. They do this by means of a talk or briefing.
Most of the divers surveyed (69.39%) had dived at Coral Garden. Other popular dive sites are Pulau Kaca, the Marine Park Centre House Reef and Pulau Segantang. All the dive operators surveyed brought their customers to Coral Garden and Pulau Kaca, with the Marine Park Centre House Reef (83.33%) and Pulau Segantang (66.67%) being popular reefs as well (Fig. 4.20). Coral Garden was rated as the most popular dive site at Pulau Payar Marine Park. The Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef is only utilised by one operator, East Marine, which operates from the pontoon itself.
70.83% of divers thought that the current level of diving at Pulau Payar Marine Park was not having an adverse effect on its coral reef environment while all of the dive operators surveyed held the same opinion. Divers were also asked to assess the level of damage at reefs they had dived at (Fig. 4.21). A high percentage assessed the level of damage at Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Segantang to be low (87.50%, 80.00% and 80.00% respectively). Reefs with high perceived levels of damage include the Langkawi Coral Pontoon House Reef (40.00%) and the Marine Park Centre House Reef (30.00%).
FIG. 4.20: UTILIZATION OF DIVE SITES
FIG. 4.21: ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGE TO REEFS
In comparison with other Marine Parks in Malaysia however, the diving at Pulau Payar was unfavourable in terms of reef health and coral diversity (53.85%), although many divers recognise the abundance offish life at Pulau Payar Marine Park.