This paper presents scenic beauty assessment of highland environment, in which the study area was Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. There were two methods used in the assessment; photographic questionnaire survey and semi structured interview. Both methods were designed to assess public scenic preferences and the impacts of Highland Management Practices (HMPs) on scenic preferences. Coloured photograph was the survey instrument used to assess the scenic preferences.
The respondents (tourists) were asked to rank a landscape scene in each photograph using a ranking scale from 1 to 12; rank 1 was the most preferred, while rank 12 was the least preferred. An analysis using frequencies (percentages) show that the tourists preferred the scene of tea plantation the most (rank 1); the next preferred scenes were the hill (rank 2), waterfall (rank 3), and forest (rank 4). The least preferred was the commercial scene (rank 12). The next least preferred scenes were the residential housing (rank 11), vegetable farm on terraced land (rank 10), flat landscape (rank 9) and vegetable farm on flat land (rank 8). A semi structured interview was used to support these findings. A total of 10 numbers of local residents was interviewed. Similarly, an analysis using frequencies (percentages) show that preference for tea plantation scene was the highest (rank 1). The next preferred scenes were the forest (rank 2) and hill (rank 2). The least preferred scenes were the vegetable farm (rank 5), waterfalls (rank 4) and residential housing (rank 4). In summary, the results generated from two different methodologies indicate that the patterns of scenic preferences for highland scenes between two different groups of respondent have close similarity. The second part of the survey determined the impact of HMPs on the scenic preferences of tourists using 5 points likert scale; (1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neutral; 4=agree; 5=strongly agree). The analysis using frequencies (percentages) shows the impacts of HMPs on the scenic preferences are: components of the natural beauty (e.g. forest, hill, waterfall and lake) have positive impact; components of management activities (e.g. clearing of forest and flattening of hill) have negative impact, where as leaving forest to grow naturally, maintaining hill original landform and planting trees originated from local species along street found enhancing highland’s scenic beauty. Finally, the components of land use namely commercial and residential developments provide negative impact, where the land uses of vegetable farm, golf course, resort, and tea plantation provide positive impact. Results of interview show that the local residents agreed that the current HMPs have negative impact on their scenic preferences. In short, several land use (e.g. residential and agriculture) and management activities (e.g. forest clearing and hill flattening) have contributed to this. Similarly, the results generated from two different methodologies indicate that the impacts of HMPs on the scenic beauty preferences of two different groups of respondent have close similarity. Overall, findings have implication to the local authorities of Cameron Highlands because the results found shall assist them in future HMPs decisions. These decisions are important towards establishing good highland environment as well as sustaining the tourism industry here. Importantly, the HMPs decisions must not only involve the local authorities. Inputs from the publics should also be considered as important.