Tag Archives: Economics

Birdwatchers Bring Bucks

Posted on Monday, April 9, 2012 by Tyler

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.

Where do travelers spend their money?

Posted on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 by Tyler

Travelers spend approximately $12 billion each year in Wisconsin. More than half of these expenditures are spent on shopping and dining—over $7 billion.

According to the state’s most recent report on traveler spending, nearly $4 billion is spent on shopping and $3.4 billion on food each year. The next highest item on the traveler expenditure list is recreation at nearly $3 billion, which consists of an amalgam of items, from gambling and liquor to fishing licenses and event tickets. The remaining segment is lodging at $1.6 billion.

Despite those numbers, there is a lingering belief even within the industry that travel revenue goes to lodging and recreation-related businesses. The reality is that these are the two smallest pieces of the pie.

Although the majority of travel expenditures go to shopping and dining, they are not the reasons travelers give for selecting a travel destination. In a 2003 study, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism found that for people traveling to urban areas, shopping ranked fourth on the list of reasons why they traveled. Dining didn’t even make the top 10. When they looked at people headed to rural destinations, shopping was ranked seventh and dining ninth.

The top reasons people gave for choosing a destination were:

  • visiting friends
  • festivals
  • outdoor activities
  • scenery/natural beauty

People choose their destinations based on fun, recreation and socializing. It is the trails, available leisure activities, festivals and other recreational assets that help travelers make their decisions about traveling to a destination. But it appears that nearly all travelers, no matter their recreational interest, enjoy shopping and dining when on vacation.

When you consider how people live today, this makes sense. Shopping and dining are entertainment for many people. When people aren’t traveling, they spend much of their leisure time shopping and dining. There is a joke in Wisconsin that when people aren’t eating, they are busy talking about where they’re going to eat next. The same goes for shopping: think of how much of our conversation time and mental effort goes into deciding what to buy and where to buy it.

What does this all mean? For businesses—particularly restaurants and retailers—it means that you should be aware that a good number of your customers are probably people who have come to your area to visit friends, use the trails, enjoy the scenery and attend events. To better serve the needs of these customers, you might consider offering WiFi and visitor guides. Your staff should be ready to give basic driving directions and suggestions about places to visit in the area. Most importantly, know that visiting your dining or retail establishment is an extremely important part of their travel experience.

In Tourism, a Continued Shift Toward Last Minute Trips

Posted on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 by Tyler
A time-strapped traveling public is changing how they travel

CanoeingThere has been a lot of tourism industry press about the increase in shorter trips and last-minute travel planning. What started as a curious trend just a few years ago has become a sustained shift in how Americans are planning their vacations and spending their vacation time.  There is an emerging shift in the way Americans not only travel, but how they view their time and resources. It is more than just a live-in-the-moment psychology at work. There are some real financial and social realities that are helping to shape traveler habits:

  • Uncertain economy – The overall wealth of individual American households is about 15% lower than it was before the recession. That alone could account for why Americans are reluctant to make long-term plans or go far from home. It also makes Americans more receptive to travel deals.
  • Continued increase in use of Internet for travel planning – When you want to know about a place, you simply look it up online and learn all about it. Travel inklings can quickly become planned vacations.
  • Gen X and Gen Y with different travel planning habits – The rise of Gen X and Gen Y consumers has been a major force in fueling the trend towards last-minute travel planning. Conversely, older travel segments, like Baby Boomers, have shown to be holding to more traditional travel planning habits. For example, a recent study found that nearly 80% of Baby Boomer females are “advanced” travel planners, tending to have their entire year of travel planned by the middle of January.

Farmer's MarketMany travel industry professionals are already changing how they market their businesses and destinations. There is an increase in email marketing to consumers. CVBs and other destination marketing organizations are actively marketing overnight packages and last-minute specials. Destination websites are being further developed to not only provide complete travel planning information, but to capture last-minute travel dollars by offering more ways visitors can book trips online.

The upshot for the tourism industry is this: Don’t wait until the last minute to pay attention to last-minute travelers.