In 2011, approximately 46.7 million people observed birds as a leisure activity. While 88% of those people birdwatched solely or partially at home, a staggering 38% (or 17.8 million people) engaged in bird watching on a hike or took a “birding” excursion.
In fact, from 1982 to 2009, recreational birdwatching grew by an estimated 287%, and that trend continues today. Birders differ somewhat from the typical adventure tourist. This provides an opportunity for recreational providers to attract new guests who are highly engaged all year round.
The Bird Watching Demographic and the Opportunities it Presents
The average bird watcher is middle-aged or older, highly educated, and has a higher-than-average annual income. Interestingly, birders tend to travel alone or with a single partner, though group expeditions are still valuable.
Any guest lodge or ranch has access to a mixture of endemic and migratory birds. Endemic birds live there all year and migratory birds will make temporary stops throughout the year. Because your mix of birds will be unique to your location, you can offer experiences not available elsewhere. And because migratory birds change with the seasons, you can provide different experiences throughout the year to keep birders engaged.
If you have an uncommon species on your property in the U.S., you can charge as much as $75 for a birding tour. Internationally, that number can rise as high as $400 per day, though the average is closer to $150 in most places.
There are few upfront costs for operators outside of hiring a knowledgeable tour guide and optional equipment rental purchases. Marketing to birdwatchers is also surprisingly straightforward. Since this group skews older and has established interest magazines and associations, it’s easy to find the right places to promote your destination.
So, in addition to the regular activities you offer, birding can be a valuable addition to your resort or lodges. Indeed, it widens your customer base. Birding appeals to people who often can’t participate in other, more intense activities.