Bird and Nature Tourism in Australia by Dr Rochelle Steven, published recently by Birdlife Australia, highlights the growing importance of birdwatching to the tourist industry and its associated benefits for communities and conservation.
In a recent article about the report Dr Steven pointed to the huge diversity in our birdlife which made birding such a fascinating activity for many people. However, many non-birdwatching Australians are unaware of this diversity or the existence of fascinating and relatively common birds like the Striated Pardalote, Metallic Starling, Satin Bowerbird and Crimson Finch. Dr Steven remarked that when one of these birds “is presented to a new or non-birder, they never fail to illicit a reaction of surprise and wonderment - if only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the words ‘how did I not know this bird existed?’”
Dr Steven believes that one of the most significant changes to Australian birding and the travel sector occurred during the last two years because of the pandemic.
“For some, especially those who spent significant funds and time travelling around the country and the world, it clipped their wings for at least the first 18 months of the pandemic. The silver lining, however, was the huge uptake of birding at a more local and immediate scale, with people taking a keen interest in birds near their places of residence.”
With travel now back on the agenda, it was appropriate for an examination of the value of birding to tourism, the economy and conservation. This examination included a well-supported survey of birder tourists and access to data from Tourism Research Australia which since 2019 has listed birdwatching on its National Visitor Survey.
Two of the report’s key findings, highlighting birding’s economic importance, are that over half a million Australians incorporate birdwatching into their travel each year and that bird tourism contributes around $283 million to Australia nationally, with negligible government investment in marketing or infrastructure. The report is available from Birdlife Australia on www.actforbirds.org .
It will be interesting to see how much birding tourism will grow.
- Leonie Blain
Published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Clarence Valley Independent , October 5th , 2022.