What is wildlife tourism?
This is the first in a series of posts about wildlife tourism and the Gulf Coast economy.
By Will Lindsey and Rachel Schott, Environmental Defense Fund
A new economic report by Datu Research LLC studied the important contribution that wildlife tourism provides to the economic vitality of 53 coastal counties and parishes across the Gulf Coast states. Wildlife tourism, which includes wildlife watching, recreational fishing and hunting, generates $19 billion per year in revenue for the Gulf Coast. Renowned for its unique culture and outdoor opportunities, the Gulf Coast environment provides world-class recreational activities for millions of tourists every year.
According to the report, “Wildlife Tourism and the Gulf Coast Economy,” more than 20 million people participate in these activities across the five Gulf Coast states every year. The study found that after taking into account businesses and economic sectors that rely on wildlife tourists, the industry produces more than $19 billion per year in revenue. This income is generated by a variety of industries, including guide and outfitter business as well as the lodging and restaurant establishments that provide services to wildlife tourists traveling to the area.
The study demonstrates that a healthy Gulf Coast is not only an important ecological resource for the region but is also a vital economic resource, providing more than $5.3 billion in tax revenues annually and numerous employment opportunities throughout the region. From sunbathing on the beaches of Alabama and Florida to fishing and hunting in Louisiana and Texas, tourists find enjoyment in the natural beauty of the Gulf Coast.
Yet this critically important wildlife recreation sector will continued to be threatened unless policy makers take bold steps to protect our eroding and degraded coastlines. “It is important that we take care of our most valuable natural assets,” said Mark Romig, President of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, at a press conference in New Orleans for the release of the report. “We need coastal restoration to protect our economic base… It’s right for the environment, right for business, right for people, and right for jobs.”
Knowing the economic impact of wildlife tourism on the Gulf Coast region makes coastal restoration even more essential and timely. Many people and businesses rely on the resources provided by the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast, and the economic viability of the area can be secured by ensuring the resiliency of this diverse, yet fragile, region for decades to come.
Investing in coastal restoration, as through the RESTORE Act and other monies stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, will help the Gulf Coast ecosystem as well as the tourism industry which depends on a healthy Gulf.