25/08/2015
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New guidebook published to help tourism industry

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A new guidebook has been published by BirdLife to help the tourism industry maximise the profits from birding.

The Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project — led by BirdLife — has developed a guidebook which provides practical information on maximising the value of birds to the tourism industry, while helping to conserve their populations and habitats.

The global tourism industry is scaling new heights with an all-time record of over 1.1 billion international tourists travelling the world in 2014. Combine this with the millions of tourists travelling within their home countries and you will get a good idea of the scale of an industry which is estimated to contribute more than 9 per cent to global 'GDP' (gross demographic product).

Tourism and nature conservation have a symbiotic relationship: tourism businesses depend on the quality and long-term viability of the natural environment in the holiday destinations they offer. This is becoming more important to the industry, and businesses are becoming increasingly aware of this. If well managed, tourism is one of the few industries that can play a transformative role, especially in developing countries, providing valuable economic development opportunities at all levels of society. It can also provide a powerful incentive for community cohesion and environmental protection. However, poorly managed tourism can damage the environments on which it depends.

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There is no longer any doubt that birds and wildlife can significantly contribute and add value to tourism. According to Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals: "Birding plays a significant and growing part in the tourism industry, and creates direct and indirect economic benefits for many countries and communities, also among developing countries. Wildlife watching appeals to a wide range of people and opportunities to participate in wildlife watching are and should increasingly be a factor in tourists’ holiday choices today." In 1999, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute estimated that 41 per cent of its $1-billion dollar tourism revenue was from visitors who came primarily for the purpose of birding.

Birds and wildlife can add authenticity to any tourism experience in any destination. As well as providing enjoyment to the casual observer, they act as a powerful incentive to travel to the dedicated ecotourist. The MSB handbook Maximising the value of birds and wildlife for tourism can show you just that, and is designed to provide guidance for tourism businesses in the Rift Valley Red Sea region and beyond. It is mainly for hotels and tour operators, showing how to maximise the benefits of migratory birds while taking action to protect this major fly-way.

The interactive handbook is freely available for download here.

Written by: BirdLife International