Each year, more than 70 million Americans spend $45 billion dollars in the process of observing, feeding and watching wildlife. There are at least 30 million birdwatchers in the U.S., and some estimates have put the number as high as 80 million people.
The expansion of birdwatching and wildlife viewing stems from the growing urbanization of America. More people than ever before are living in non-rural settings. The desire to reconnect with nature leads many of these people to seek out places where they can see birds and animals in their natural habitat.
Why should tourism-related businesses pay attention to the growing number of birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts? Because they travel and they spend money.
- A 2001 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that nationwide, 18 million people had taken one or more away-from-home birdwatching trips.
- A 1999 survey along the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail found that only 4.6% of the people using the trail were Texas residents. The survey also found that the average trip was more than eight days in length.
- A survey of the participants in the “2004 Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival” in Jamestown, North Dakota, found that 83% of the out-of-town participants had household incomes over $50,000.
The economic potential of birdwatching and wildlife viewing is significant. While it might not be feasible to launch an entire promotional campaign targeting birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts, it is easy to include birds and wildlife in your traveler information materials. Your promotional materials about local parks and natural areas should include descriptions of the ecology and any interesting or unusual bird, animal or plant species found there.
It is very helpful if tourism information resources—tourism office, retailers, hotel desk staff, etc—know of the best birdwatching spots in area. A basic knowledge of the location of the best birding areas is all that’s needed—nobody needs to become an ornithologist.
Another great way to target birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts is by offering special “Birdwatcher” themed overnight packages. Offering a “Two-night Birdwatchers Special” might be just the ticket for attracting a few extra visitors during the spring and fall.
Start becoming aware of the growing number of birdwatchers and wildlife viewers who like to travel. You’re going to find that they’re a very common species.