Environmental planners often propose tourism as a means of financing programmes to protect significant environmental areas. Surveys of tourists can provide useful information about the significance of environmental problems, trade-offs among policy objectives, willingness to pay (WTP) for protection programmes and preferences for different payment mechanisms. In Khanh Hoa Province, the provincial People's Committee, the Ministry of Fisheries and the World Conservation Union are working to implement Viet Nam's first marine protected area (MPA) in Nha Trang Bay. This paper reports the results of a survey of local and other Vietnamese and foreign tourists to islands that will be included in the MPA. The majority of respondents thought rubbish on the beaches, water pollution and vendors on beaches were problems and that the MPA was a good idea. Foreign tourists were significantly more likely to perceive environmental problems than were Vietnamese tourists, and persons who agreed there were environmental problems were significantly more likely to support the concept of an MPA, despite the potential for possible economic effects with distributive consequences. WTP for protection was modest and positively correlated with education and income. Although foreign tourists were on average willing to pay more, a larger proportion of Vietnamese tourists were willing to pay some amount to support the MPA. Analyses indicate that changes in income and education expected with economic development will increase both awareness of problems and WTP for protection. The results of this analysis are both encouraging and cautionary. The need for an MPA is clearly recognized by most tourists, and most tourists are willing to pay small fees to support the MPA. Given that education has significant impacts on both perceptions of problems and WTP, educational programmes may be an effective strategy for managing the competing objectives of protection and use.