Re: birding-aus Birdwatching Tourism

To: "Chris Dahlberg" <>
Subject: Re: birding-aus Birdwatching Tourism
From: "sonnenburg" <>
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 16:50:00 +1000
As a birdwatching tour operator, I have been following the thread of the
messages on this topic.  It certainly is difficult to make any impression
out there in general tourism in respect of specialised birding tours. My
Australian clients are few and far between and Gift Voucher tours probably
outnumber the others.  Overseas clients reach us through various means
including internet, Yellow Pages, personal and other referrals.  I get some
groups through inbound tour operators.
There is pretty much a total lack of interest by general tourism in
birdwatching.  It irks me when other forms of tourism (such as motor racing)
are pandered to by Government and we small operators get absolutely no
assistance and must pay for the privilege of visiting National Parks,
running a motor vehicle (tour operator) etc.  To become registered as a tour
operator also entailed a compulsory course costing in the vicinity of $500.
Then of course there is Public Liability insurance; very expensive but
I certainly use the opportunity to give the conservation message loudly and
clearly to our clients.
However all is not pessimistic.  I give a bird lecture each year at Woodford
Folk Festival (SE Q'd) and get 50+ people ranging from beginners to some
quite experienced.  My early morning birdwalks are also well attended 20-30
people each day.  It is promoted through the Festival Programme.
The problem for professional tour operators in Australia is that not many
people want to pay for a tour and I can understand that.  We have so many
wonderful birds that are relatively easy to see.  Mind you it has taken me
about 30 years and a good deal of other ornithological hard yakka (banding,
formal study) to get to the point where I feel that I am competent to show
people birds for a fee.   But we do much more than that!  We show people
some great scenery and habitat and other wildlife, as most operators do.
NP personnel are a mixed bunch when it comes to birds.  Some are great, and
intimately know the birds in their patch while others could not give the
proverbial rats.  It comes down to their personal interests.   Certainly I
think that NP's could be far better promoted, using birds as a lever.
I think that we must gradually educate the public and others involved in
tourism that birds are a great selling point for many overseas tourists and
those of us in the industry must promote bird conservation and birdwatching
whenever we can.  I still give talks to groups ranging from preschools to
pensioners as a flow on from my QOSI presidential days.  It is amazing what
a few slides and taped calls and a good dash of enthusiasm will do.
I am involved with commercial birdwatching because I love doing it and
continue to get great enjoyment in  seeing our wonderful birds in the wild.
Bugger all money in it though!!  That is why we provide other ornithological
services as well.

Roy Sonnenburg
Birding Services Brisbane

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