Birding Trail Development from a Tourism Planning Perspective
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As bird-watching gains popularity, there have been various techniques utilized by tourism planners to attract birdwatchers. One method of drawing birders to a specific region is through the development of a birding trail. Although there are many birding trails with varying levels of success, there was little research as to how birding trails should be designed, implemented and managed. Perhaps, a new and viable approach to birding trail development would be to plan them as tourism product clubs. A product club is an association of tourism service providers working together to deliver an integrated service. Product clubs have been successfully implemented in Barbados with golf tourism and in Spain with winery tourism. However, the concept of a product club has never been applied to bird-watching tourism. Therefore, this research tested the idea of utilizing the product club concept for bird-watching tourism. The methodology had three separate phases. Phase one involved interviewing officials of existing tourism trails, to see how they planned and managed their trails. These interviews illustrated how and what is involved with tourism trail planning and management. Phase two involved the choice of a case study location, the County of Essex and Chatham-Kent in Ontario. Phase three was planning the trail by forming an Advisory Committee consisting of key industry, non-government and government stakeholders. The Advisory Committee assisted with the following key decisions: trail size and scope, selection of birding sites, choosing accessory tourism service institutions, developing a product club oversight organization, marketing the product club, and the management, evaluation and monitoring of the trail. The thesis provides recommendations that can be used to implement a birding trail as a tourism product club. The research findings concluded that a birding trail can be planned and managed as tourism product clubs.