The Role of Water Quality in Beach Visitation Decisions in Croatia: Implications for Development of the Tourism Industry

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Croatia is experiencing a surge in popularity as tourists are attracted to its pristine coastal waters. Although the growth of the tourism industry would bring increased revenues from visitation, the development of tourism could negatively impact the coastal resources. Worsening water quality could cause certain beaches, areas, or regions to become less desirable and consequently less likely to be visited. This study was designed to determine the role ofwater quality in tourists' decisions to visit beaches in Split-Dalmatia County and Krk Island using a conditional logit model. In addition to determining the role of water quality, this study used a multiple regression model to delineate the impact of changes in tourist numbers upon coastal water quality. As a final analysis, the findings from the economic conditional logit model were combined with an ecological multiple regression model in a 25-year dynamic model. Results of the conditional logit model indicated that water quality is positively and significantly related to the probability of a beach being selected by non-Croatian tourists in Split-Dalmatia County. Local perceptions of the safety of water for swimming also were significant predictors of the beach visitation decisions of non-Croatian tourists to Krk Island. The multiple regression model indicated that the presence of more tourists is significantly related to worse coastal water quality. Finally, the dynamic model indicated that higher numbers of tourists over time would eventually lead to higher total coliform levels and that beaches without sewage treatment or removal of total coliforms would experience a declining probability of selection by non-Croatian tourists over the 25-yr period. The dynamic model also indicated that driving tourists to a beach by addition of a Blue Flag may have unintended consequences in the absence of sewage treatment as the increasing numbers of tourists decrease the water quality and the probability of that beach being selected over the long term. These findings have important implications for policymakers and planners in Croatia, as the decision to pursue tourism growth without concomitant investments in sewage infrastructure may not be sustainable for the long term.