Posted Oct. 20, 2015
Ginger Deason is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on sustainable tourism and climate change. She also is a birder.
Birding is big business.
Wings Over Water, which takes place Oct. 20 to 25, 2015, draws hundreds of birders to the Outer Banks and points along North Carolina’s northern coast. These visitors bring in tourist dollars that boost the economy of these small, rural host communities during the off season.
Across the country and around the world, birders are willing to spend money to find their feathered friends. In 2011, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported that birders in the United States spent a record $41 billion on trip- and equipment-related expenditures.
In a Birder Travel Decisions Survey I conducted in 2014, respondents noted spending an average of $500 per person on their most recent birding trip in the U.S. The study was funded by North Carolina Sea Grant and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The questions focused on a variety of travel choices birders make. More than 600 avid birders — 92 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “birding is a part of me” — from North Carolina and surrounding states responded to the survey. For this research, I worked with Tourism Extension, which is part of N.C. Cooperative Extension at North Carolina State University.
Birders, I found, are willing to pay 6 to 10 percent more for environmentally or birder-friendly products and services. They are very concerned about the effects of climate change on birds and bird habitat, and they have clear opinions about the strategies businesses can implement to attract birders.
Spoiler alert: Putting up feeders is not a bad start!
The North Carolina Birding Trail developed the Birder Friendly Business and Birder Friendly Community Program to help businesses along the trail to better market to birders.
The Birding Trail was founded by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Audubon North Carolina, North Carolina Sea Grant, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, N.C. Cooperative Extension, and N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. The trail was developed to help the state become a leading nature-based tourism destination.
My survey will help the Birding Trail redesign its Birder Friendly Business online training program, adding helpful information that we gleaned from the responses. The goal is to launch the updated training in spring 2016. It will include tools and resources for businesses, as well as strategies to assist them with collaborative marketing — specifically targeted at birders.
If you are a business located along the N.C. Birding Trail and are interested in attracting some of those birders — and their spending — watch the website for the new Birder Friendly Business online training program!
For more information about the training program or to be notified when the new version is available, contact email@example.com or call 919-515-4260.