Business and Nature Working Together

Business and nature can work together and are doing so successfully on Alabama’s coast.

by Joanne McDonough,
Nature Tourism Specialist

Registers are ringing for businesses as they cash in on tourists’ fascination with wildlife watching, a growing trend known as Nature Tourism. More than 71 million Americans participate in wildlife watching, pumping over $45 billion into the nation’s economy, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Alabama’s Gulf Coast is home to a tremendous variety of species and habitats, ecosystems that are magnificent to explore and photograph but also play a vital role in providing clean air, clean water, safe food and storm resilience.

In 2009, Alabama’s beaches attracted over 4 million visitors who spent more than $2 billion. In turn this generated 40,000 travel- related jobs accounting for $915 million in wages and salary. Increasingly important to Alabama’s coastal tourism is the number of wildlife viewers. In 2000 when the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail was completed nearly 100,000 visitors who came to Baldwin County participated in nature tourism activities, by 2009 more than 400,000 visitors were participating in nature tourism activities.

Visitors and residents are becoming more environmentally aware and recognize the importance of low impact tourism. It is important to continually create opportunities for the public to enjoy our coastal habitats and species and to become educated about the requirements for healthy natural resources. To support the development of sustainable tourism Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism has partnered with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Weeks Bay Reserve, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the Alabama Department of Marine Resources to develop the Certified Coastal Nature Guide Program and the Certified Fisher Invested in Sustainable Harvests Program which provides hands-on environmental education that encourages behaviors that contribute to the sustainability of the Gulf Coast region’s natural ecosystems and resources. In the field, well-planned and managed nature tourism businesses can enrich the livelihoods of our coastal communities and by relying on healthy natural resources, offer powerful incentive to conserve and protect our biodiversity that enhances our quality of life and the lives of future generations.

Certified Coastal Nature Guide

The Coastal Nature Guide Certification Program is designed for a new generation of nature tourism professionals in the Gulf of Mexico region. To be successful, nature tourism experiences should provide quality opportunities to engage the public with nature in ways that lead to greater understanding and appreciation, while protecting and preserving the wildlife populations they are viewing. The goal of the Coastal Nature Guide Certification Program is to build and enhance the skills needed for nature tourism professionals to adopt and promote sustainable wildlife viewing practices that preserve healthy and resilient coasts of the Gulf of Mexico, while stimulating local economies. The full day training sessions provide hands-on environmental education that encourages behaviors which contribute to the sustainability of the Gulf Coast region’s natural ecosystems and resources and assists tour operators in promoting an awareness and stewardship of the Gulf Coast’s natural heritage and best practices aimed at operating in an economically, ethically and environmentally sustainable manner.

Certified Fisher Invested in Sustainable Harvests

The Certified Fisher Invested in Sustainable Harvests (CFISH) Program is designed for a new generation of charter fishing professionals. The goal of the program is to build and enhance the skills needed for charter fishing professionals to adopt and promote sustainable fishing practices that preserve healthy marine resources, while stimulating local economies. To be successful, charter fishing experiences should provide quality opportunities to engage the public with natural resources in ways that lead to greater understanding and appreciation, while protecting, preserving and sustaining our marine resources. The full day training sessions provide hands-on environmental education that assists charter fishing professionals in promoting an awareness and stewardship of the Gulf Coast’s fisheries, and best practices aimed at operating in an economically, ethically and environmentally sustainable manner.

Leave a Reply