September 2, 2014

Eco-Tourism

Feathering Their Nests

Diane Sears | 12/1/2004
Bird-watching is becoming so popular as Baby Boomers age that an estimated one in every four or five people calls it a hobby to some extent, according to national figures. Yet this group of 46 million Americans and an uncounted number of foreign birders still aren't widely recognized by destinations that cater to traditional tourists.

"A lot of times they're kind of a peripheral part of the tourism market, or that's how they're treated," says Julie Brashears, a coordinator with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In an effort to change that, the commission is polling bird-watchers at surveyroom.com/birdtrail/web to find out how much money they spend when they travel. Current commission figures show birding generates an annual $477 million in retail sales in Florida alone -- second nationwide only to California.

The survey also aims to find out what kinds of amenities destinations could offer specifically for birders. For instance, hotels with continental breakfast service could start serving earlier than 7 a.m. or offer bag lunches for people who head out before sunrise.

Florida tourism leaders are watching the trend. In a poll by Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency, 70.3% of those who came to Florida between February 2003 and February 2004 made nature-based activities part of their itineraries, an increase of 3.2% over the previous year.

The commission's Great Florida Birding Trail guidebooks list 330 sites in the state's eastern, western and Panhandle regions and will eventually include south Florida sites. Requests for the guides have come from all 50 states and seven other countries, Brashears says. Birders can request free copies through the website at florida-birdingtrail.com or by calling 850/488-8755.

One advantage of attracting birders, Brashears says, is that destinations don't have to spend a lot of money to do it. "To court these kinds of tourists," she says, "you don't have to pave and drain and put up neon."

Popular Birding Sites
-- Everglades National Park near Miami
-- Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in southwest Florida
-- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in the Keys
-- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Kennedy Space Center
-- Fort DeSoto Park near St. Petersburg

Tags: Dining & Travel, Around Florida

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Disney's Hoop-Dee-Doo still serving up laughs, dinner after 40 years
Disney's Hoop-Dee-Doo still serving up laughs, dinner after 40 years

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue will mark its 40th anniversary this week after more than 37,000 dinner-show performances at Pioneer Hall, tucked away in Disney's Fort Wilderness campground.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

When will you retire?

  • Soon - within a year
  • 2-3 years from now
  • 4-6 years from now
  • 6-10 years from now
  • 10+ years from now
  • I can't envision retiring
  • Already retired!

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe