Some market research...
As a part of this report about avitourism we aim to describe key characteristics of the travelling birder and nature enthusiast (short: NE) scene. Birders and NEs love to travel. Birds themselves migrate amazing distances to find the best breeding and feeding grounds. As a natural extension of being deeply into birds comes an urge to travel and see various bird species in the wide array of habitats they utilise.
The following study is based on an international online survey we conducted and the below statistics are drawn from the results of this. In the survey we aimed to get feedback from the keen birders and nature enthusiasts. As such the survey was set up to last for only 3 days and it was spread throughout the birding community via twitter, direct mails to our contacts, and with the help of several key online birding services (like Birdguides and Rare Bird Alert in UK). 346 people completed the survey - a very nice result and when read with background knowledge of the birding scene, provides a lot of interesting and representative information. We wish to thank all the people who took part in the survey and the ones who helped us spread it to a very targeted community of birders and nature enthusiasts.
- Most birding holidays last for 1-3 weeks, and are made with birding friends, however birding will and can be done with anyone.
- Independent travel is by far the most popular.
- Birding is the main focus. Everything else is secondary!
- Hotels and lodges rule, but everything goes!
- Credible information is key: Advice from other birders is by far the most important when deciding on where to travel.
- Destination websites are often considered less valuable, as birding information there is often is found to be less trustworthy.
- Local tour operators (of the non-birding kind) are often not considered to serve trustworthy information, but when a hotel is run by birder they can provide very valuable information. A deeper then average knowledge of the local birdlife can be a key selling point. If you do not have this interest of knowledge yourselves, connect with someone who has.
- Destination bird guide books are (almost) always written by a birder or someone with good knowledge of birding in the region. These are often considered to be very valuable, and in many cases having a destination guide book will help launch the destination in the birding world. The key is detailed site information, with good maps and / or descriptions.
- 64% of travelling birders will sometimes hire a guide. Many prefer to travel independently, but being able to hire a guide for parts of a holiday will give a great introduction to an area, but the sense of exploring on your own is still important.
- More than 75% will ALWAYS use a guide book for the destination. Make sure one is available.
- Additional products are very valuable, and if available very often used. Make sure unique experiences become available products.
- There are enough birders in the world to have birding happening at every price range. However birders are often willing to spend considerable amounts of money on their passion and hobby.
- Birders most commonly travel internationally once or twice a year. However some travel much more.
- Birders are very focused on the birding experience but 60% still prefer to pay more for comfort and / or good food.
- Birding happens at every age, from teenager to retired. Birding is a lifestyle. Once you have chosen birding it will stay with you for life. Birders are, by many hotel and lodge owners, considered to be some of the best kind of guests. They are often very knowledgeable about local conditions (most birders do a lot of research before a trip). Birders are also very often easily satisfied (providing the birding is good!). They are also often return customers for many years.
- In Europe a large portion of birders are male. In the USA however there are just about more women then men who are into birding. The survey used here had a high input from the UK birding community, hence the high proportion of men in the above result. This is also reflected in many European birding destinations.
- Pay-for photo hides are not widely used by travelling birders. This survey was aimed more at the keen birding community and a smaller number of wildlife photographers contributed. Photographers will very often like to use pay-for photo hides. Sometimes a good photo hide is a reason to go. Preferably a destination needs more then one kind of photo hide to become attractive to an international audience. When travelling to Norway one often spends considerable money on travel and having more attractions available will make it more worthwhile.
- Public bird hides and / or wind shelters are very often used. They make birding more comfortable and more easily available. They are also often a sign of a good birding location. Such facilities also makes it easier to bring family on trips. Bird hides and wind shelters come at a low cost compared to the high value they provide.
- In Europe: Most birders live in the UK. The UK can, with its long tradition of "natural history" almost be considered the homeland of birding.
- Birding is popular in the other western European countries. It is also on the rise in most other countries.
- Birding is very big in USA (but with a more relaxed / less intense style of birding).
- Birding in Asia is on the rise. In particular in China (where people come into birding via photography).
- Birding destinations are popular based on 1.) being easily accessible and safe 2.) being exotic and / or adventurous 3.) providing a very high diversity of bird species.
- Norway ranks very high on being the world´s easiest available arctic birding destination. Surely some of the people taking this survey will have had Norway on their mind when taking the survey, simply based on where the survey comes from. Still, even with this taken into account, the survey result is very positive for Norway!
- Spain is cleverly marketed, and it's key regions have become famous destinations. It is very easily available from the main European market, UK.
- Norway offers unique and very exotic birding, easily available. Again, survey bias considered, it is a very good result for Norway, and should fuel the work to make Norway more attractive for birders.