Understanding the determinant attributes affecting visitor demand at tourist destinations and the accompanying economic impacts are strategic for the management of protected areas (PA). This cross-sectional quantitative study examined the distribution of recreation opportunity classes, determinants of visitation demand and economic impact of tourism in the Federal System of Protected Areas of Brazil. The analyses used the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) classification framework (Driver & Brown, 1978; Brown et al., 1978; Clark & Stankey, 1979) and a spatial demand model to evaluate demand and supply based on three attributes: physical, social and managerial. In addition, as an extension to the ROS framework, the assessment considered internal, as well as external attributes. Furthermore, a visitor spending analysis based on the Money Generation Model (MGM2) (Stynes et al., 2000) was conducted to evaluate economic impacts of the PAs on the surrounding communities. Specifically, the research examined the recreation classes of use and standards for the Brazilian PAs, the prediction of tourist demand using the recreation classification system, and the economic impacts of tourism in PAs of Brazil.
Results showed that both internal PA attributes and external characteristics are considered by visitors. The results have practical utility and can be used to improve investment efficacy among the PAs that already receive visitors and to evaluate the tourism attractiveness for new PAs. Also, findings are useful for the communities and small businesses located in the adjacent areas, since adequate prediction of visitor demand provides support for tourism activities. The economic analysis demonstrated that total contributions of around 8 million visitors in 2015 reached more than $1.2 billion dollars in total sales, $342 million in personal income, and $473 million in value added to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supported 43,602 jobs. The analyses demonstrated that every dollar Brazil invested in the PA system produced $7 in economic benefits nationally. The results showed that the economic impacts of ecotourism not only directly affect PA management and the tourism industry, but also indirectly affect other types of businesses and the local communities.