Tourism and the Caribbean are synonymous, right? Beaches, tans, thatched huts, little umbrellas floating in florescent sugary drinks; what place on the earth more typifies tourism than our islands. What could be more touristy than a Caribbean beach?
Tourism comes in more than one flavor, though. Beaches often come with birds. The tourism described above is the Walmart, Club Med version – high volume, low yield, high impact. Sustainable tourism this is not (no matter how many days you keep your towels). There is another type of tourism, that espoused by the Caribbean Birding Trail. This tourism is low volume, high yield, and low impact. Tourism of this sort strives to capture the economic impacts locally, and to empower local communities and small businesses to harness the tourism economy for their own direct benefit.
Our tourism also strives to be sustainable, taking nothing from nature than is not replaced. In fact, the conservation programs of BirdsCaribbean and our partners elevate our tourism efforts beyond sustainability to restorative economic development. In truth, we try to put back more than we take.
By investing your travel dollars with the CBT and its partners you know that the resources you have enjoyed on your trip will be there when you return. CBT operators and guides will reveal a side of the Caribbean, the real Caribbean, that you cannot see sequestered inside a gated resort. Most importantly, we are fun people to chill with! What could be more rewarding than doing good while hanging with fellow bird geeks!
Caribbean Birding Trail products and experiences are an ideal match for birdwatchers, nature lovers, wildlife photographers, individuals who travel independent of packaged itineraries, and anyone looking for authentic, unique, and revelatory travel experiences.
Wildlife Watching and Photography
Globally, the tourism market for wildlife watching and photography is growing. In 2011, U.S. wildlife watchers spent $54.9 billion. Trip-related expenses, including food, lodging, and transportation, totaled $17.3 billion, 31 percent of all expenditures.
Most impressive is the growth in wildlife photography. According a recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there were 13.9 million wildlife photographers in 2001. By 2011, that number had grown to 25.4 million, an increase of 82%.
It is interesting to note that the amount spent by US wildlife watchers on related travel in 2011 ($17.3 billion) exceeded the direct contribution of the entire Caribbean travel and tourism industry in 2011 ($15.1 billion).
Bird watching tourism is increasing in popularity in Europe as well, especially in Denmark, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK. Here, between 20% and 40% of tourists are interested in some element of wildlife tourism.
Free and Independent Travel
Free and Independent Travelers (FITs) are those who prefer to arrange their own itineraries and avoid the constraints imposed by packaged trips offered by outbound tour operators.
Studies show that FITs also tend to be environmentally aware, with the desire to experience new ways of life and usually are enthusiastic, off-the-beaten-track explorers with a thirst for experiencing the “real thing.” They enjoy good food, architecture, and the heritage of local cultures.
FITs also tend to spread their money around in a more efficient fashion, buying from multiple locations driven by their own particular itinerary and tastes and by the intention of enjoying the local way of life. In contrast, tour groups concentrate in a few providers, which tend to spread money in a less than optimal manner.
The Caribbean Birding Trail is looking to position itself to capture these markets, attract them to the Caribbean and thereby stimulate a more sustainable tourism industry in the region. A more sustainable industry means less volume, less impact, more economic benefits captured locally, and overall a much higher quality experience for the visitor.