Wildlife-related recreation has become one of the most popular outdoor activities in the U.S. Over the past 20 years, participation in wildlife watching, particularly bird watching, has increased nationally by more than 266% (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation).
The travel industry has noted the increased interest in outdoor and experiential travel, and in 2002, the Travel Industry Association of America declared:
- 76% of American travelers want to visit somewhere that they have never been before;
- 48% of these travelers are interested in “remote and untouched” destinations; and
- 57% are attracted by an area’s culture.
According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, wildlife watching is the largest economic growth sector in outdoor recreation. Across the U.S., nearly $40 billion was spent on wildlife watching—a figure that has increased by over 40% in the past ten years. These expenses ranged from supplies such as binoculars and bird seed, to hotel rooms and gasoline. In New Jersey alone, 1.64 million residents and 688,000 visitors watched wildlife, and collectively, these two groups spent $1.24 billion on their hobby.
Of the nation’s 66 million wildlife watchers, 45 million of them are bird-watchers. In 2001, these bird watchers spent $32 billion in retail stores, which generated $85 billion in overall economic impact and created over 860,000 jobs (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2001 Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis).
Birding and Baseball?
In 2001, 82 million people participated in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, while in that same year 89 million people attended all major league baseball and professional football games.*
* U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001 National and State Economic Impacts of Wildlife Watching