THE Bahamas National Trust, the National Audubon Society and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism have developed a joint Bird-based Tourism Initiative to help Bahamians take advantage of a growing, multi- billion dollar global market.
The initiative was launched last Thursday to an environmental and travel industry audience at the British Colonial Hilton.
The United Nations has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The aim is to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector. Bird tourism can play a role in this, according to a press release.
The Bird-based Tourism Initiative has been training bird tour guides from several islands over the past two years, with the goal of creating sustainable jobs while helping to protect Bahamian biodiversity and natural habitats.
So far, 58 Bahamians have trained as bird field guides through the programme. At least nine have advanced qualifications and can lead specialised tours to any island in the Bahamas. The initiative has also developed marketing and business support materials for the tour guides.
Funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Bird-based Tourism Initiative has been implemented by the BNT and the Audubon Society, with the Ministry of Tourism playing a key strategic role.
A general bird guide curriculum was designed, with basic and advanced versions, as well as suggested travel itineraries and public education programmes in support of the environment and local communities.
The training covered bird biology, environmental threats and conservation measures, as well as and extensive field training to spot and identify birds. The Ministry of Tourism provided Bahamahost training and business management components.
Bird-watching is a fast-growing, high-value outdoor activity. And an increasing number of birdwatchers are travelling to destinations like the Bahamas. These visitors are generally high income earners, who spend more money and time here, bringing greater value to the economy, a press release about the initiative said.
They are also more interested in sustainable tourism generally, and tend to rely more on local goods and services when travelling, while supporting destination conservation projects, the press release added.
Groups of visitors and US tour operators will travel to the main bird tourism islands of Andros and Inagua this month.