Posted on the 15th April 2011

Johannesburg, 14 April 2011: Recognising that birding tourism is an all-important conservation tool, BirdLife South Africa has always supported its development. What has long been overdue is an independent review of the birding tourism sector which highlights what it is actually worth and why it is important to South Africa. Recently however, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) contracted independent development economists Kaiser and Associates to conduct a year-long review of the birding tourism sector. The result of this study was recently published in three detailed reports (available at

The findings of the report were extremely positive. The estimated total size of South Africa’s current avitourism market is between 21 000 and 40 000 annually, of which domestic birdwatchers number between 13 000 and 24 000. Whilst relatively small in numbers, birdwatchers’ total spend was estimated to be between R927 million and R1.725 billion per year, of which domestic bird-watchers’ spend was between R482 million and R890 million.

Though domestic avitourism represents a major untapped market, foreign birdwatchers also represent an important area for future growth with between 8 000 and 16000 international birders visiting South Africa in 2010 with an estimated spend of between R309 million and R618 million. In total, birding tourism’s contribution to the South African GDP is in the range of R1.205 billion to R2.243 billion annually.
What is more impressive is the positive profiles exhibited by birding tourists who generally have higher than average income levels, longer trip lengths, and a greater tendency to visit multiple provinces than mainstream tourism market segments. They also spend a higher total number of days per year travelling for birding purposes and spend more per visitor than those in other niche market segments. Domestic and international birdwatcher profiles correlate with priority market segments targeted by South African Tourism. Most importantly, the report also found that birding tourism had the potential to be used as an effective conservation tool, which supports BirdLife South Africa’s views.
The Department of Tourism has now identified birding tourism as one of the key niche markets that they will be profiling and supporting for the coming year. BirdLife South Africa has recently completed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Tourism aimed at developing the birding tourism sector in South Africa, and is looking forward to working with Government and all interested stakeholders on the development of this extremely important market.


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