By Amayaa Wijesinghe
Statistics prove that bird watching tourism is the fastest growing type of nature tourism in the world, with top birding destinations in Asia being India, China and Thailand. There is an enormous niche for bird watching tourism in Sri Lanka, according to the experts gathered in Colombo this week.
The ‘International Conference on Bird, Biodiversity and Tourism (ICBBT) 2016’ was hosted by the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), in collaboration with The International Institute of Knowledge Management on 14 of November at The Kingsbury. It saw the presence of many local and international participants, including Birdlife International, the global not-for-profit dedicated to conservation of birds, with partner organisations in many different countries.
Eco tourism and nature tours are becoming increasingly popular among all travellers, no matter the profession. Relaxing among nature seems to be the preferred stress buster for many individuals from all walks of life. There is a growing consciousness about the importance and the benefits of flora, fauna and ecosystems among the general populace, and this is reflected in the increased demand for tours and travels which highlight nature.
Biodiversity is an economic necessity for the success of tourism in any country. It is a matter of economics. No tourist wants to see a degraded landscape with no flora and fauna to speak of. Then why is there such a gap between the species that need funding for protection, and the amount of resources which are diverted towards their conservation? These matters too have been discussed at the conference.
Awareness among the community seems to be the key factor which can bring about sustainable conservation. If communities around a tourist attraction are given the direct benefits of the income and other services generated by tourists, then they themselves will take up the mandate to preserve the biodiversity of the region. The figures also support this fact. Globally, $7 trillion are generated as income through tourism, and it accounts for one in 11 jobs anywhere in the world. Since eco tourism now plays a significant role in attracting people from all over the globe, nature plays an important part in the quality package which is offered by a country to a tourist.
Some case studies on success stories of bird tourism too have been shared. A tiny island off the coast of Scotland, plays host to an abundance of Mull’s Sea Eagles, which were reintroduced to the island in recent times. Currently, one in five tourists visiting the island do so just to observe the eagles, and it is generating over three million pounds annually in the local economy, while providing jobs for 66 individuals on the island, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK. The studies also showed that the RSPB reserves in UK generated over 60 million pounds in income in 2012 alone, while supporting the local communities. By working with these local communities, habitat loss can be prevented, and sustainable benefits for both man and beast can be created.