These are a list of common questions we have received and compiled to further help.
- What Nature Tourism activities will sell?
- How much money can I make?
- What should I charge?
- How much land do I need?
- What are people looking for in a Nature Tourism site?
- Where can I get help for Wildlife & habitat management?
- Can hunting and non-hunting operations work together?
- What kinds of things are others offering?
- Do you have any examples of Nature Tourism businesses?
- What liabilities should I be concerned with?
- Will I need to “babysit” people to prevent injury or harm?
- Will people want the freedom to do things on their own or should it all be guided?
- How much do I have to know about Wildlife/Birds?
- Will people leave trash on my land?
- Are there groups that travel together for these activities?
- Will I need to serve food?
- When are the peak times for people to visit?
- How fancy of a room/guest house do I need?
- How do I market my operation?
- How much does it cost to market my operation?
- Do I need special facilities and if so, what are they?
- Do I need walking trails?
- How far will people travel to visit my place?
- What should I do if people complain or cause problems?
- Should I have a website?
1. What Nature Tourism activities will sell?
Many opportunities exist for a Nature or Wildlife Based Tourism operation. Successful nature based operations usually offer lodging and beautiful scenery. Many offer some hiking and weave in some cultural and natural history. Lakes, rivers and topographic features, ie mountains, hills, caves etc attract many visitors. Wildlife based operations, whether viewing, photography or hunting require a reasonable chance of success for the visitor. What “reasonable” means varies but could be 100% for specific client markets.
Hunting & Fishing generally can generate individual higher fees than viewing and photograph and other non hunting activities. Visitor capacity varies significantly from hunting to non hunting activities means the number of people you can provide service to is usually lower with hunting and fishing.
Additionally, climate and season play a significant role in visitation and non hunting markets are generally much more sensitive to climate & weather. Agricultural based attractions, ie farm and ranch stays, blended with wildlife and outdoor activities are also significant attractions. Proximity to large resident populations or existing attractions with large visitor populations is an important variable.
Some significant market segments:
- Birdwatching-main interest is in hard to find birds or birds not found in the visitor home area (for experienced birders) or Wow experiences (for everyone), such as large flocks, special behavior etc. Guided programs are helpful for novice birders with predictable close up views
- Whitetail deer trophy hunts, quail hunts, and hunting and fishing in general
- Rustic but quality lodging in scenic areas, especially those with water features
- Natural adventure activities such as kayaking, hiking in mountains, mountain biking, horseback riding etc
- Big game viewing experiences when sightings will be common and relatively close.
- Watch the Enterprises video for additional information (~22 minutes)
Nature Tourism enterprises can generate millions of dollars in revenue. Many are smaller owner operated enterprises providing income and lifestyle. For agricultural landowners nature tourism operations often function as a supplementary income source. Operators have seen the nature tourism operation become the primary operation with traditional agricultural becoming supplementary. Like most any operation income is dependent on the investment of time and resources. Location does play a significant role in tourism operations.
It sounds simple but…Charge enough to make a profit! One of the key questions to answer is how much to charge. Before setting a price, it is important to know your cost of production. Then there are three basic methods of setting price.
- A predetermined profit margin is added to the cost of production e.g. a hat that costs you $10, with a profit margin of 100% would retail at $20.
- Going rate is what other companies in your market are charging. If this price was $17 for the same hat, you would sell the hat for $17
- Value based pricing is used when your brand or product is sufficiently needed, unique, or convenient.This allows you to charge a higher price. For example, you may sell the same hat for $60.
Any land size can potentially offer a Nature Tourism experience. A smaller size property does limit what type of experiences you can offer on site, but partnership with other landowners and use of public land may be an option. A sustainable operation will work in conjunction with existing land uses and not cause harm to the resource.
5. What are people looking for in a Nature Tourism site?
A Nature Tourism experience focuses on viewing and experiencing the natural world. With this in mind, the natural scenery/geography, wildlife, sounds, darkness and unique characteristics of your land are important to the Nature Tourism experience. Don’t forget to consider sharing how the cultural aspects your community or your lifestyle are derived from local landscapes, nature and wildlife.
6. Where can I get help for Wildlife & Habitat management?
Your local Extension Agent can aid in community specialized management practices. Below are a few links for additional information.
- Texas A&M Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences Extension Unit
- Natural Resources Conservation Service – Texas
- Texas Parks and Wildlife – Find a Wildlife Biologist
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
7. Can hunting and non-hunting operations work together?
Yes; the site, your marketing, the specific activities and timing will determine how well these operations will work together. Create a written operations plan to guide your efforts; browse online to resource: Making Nature Your Business Guide by Texas Parks & Wildlife Division.
8. What kinds of things are others offering?
Just about anything you can think of and much that you probably would never think up. You can learn a lot by doing research online and use for primary ideas to search for places providing that activity. Magazines can also help, travel books and travel sections of large newspapers are also useful.
Agrilife Extension provides a list of nature tourism operations and their web sites, which is available on our Travelers page. Researching operator websites and contacting the local agencies (Chambers of Commerce, Extension Office, Convention and Visitors Bureau, etc) can offer additional information.
9. Do you have any examples of Nature Tourism businesses?
Examples of operations in Texas are listed on our Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Nature Tourism website. Nature Tourism includes 4 categories: click each category to review or inventory of Adventure, Agritourism, Hunting and Fishing operations. Within these categories, there are many options ranging from kayaking and skydiving to hunting/fishing, and even listings of pioneer farms and dude ranches.
10. What liabilities should I be concerned with?
Liability issues are generally not as troubling as they are perceived to be. Texas has established some laws that help protect landowners. Insurance companies are additionally becoming more familiar with the safety records and needs of tour operators. To try and help you understand Insurance options Texas Agrilife Extension has published the following documents. As always we recommend you consult a lawyer and insurance agent for specifics but these documents should help.
- Insurance for Nature Tourism Operations in Texas – excerpt from the publication; Developing Trails and Tourism on Private Lands in Texas (B-6103)
- Texas A&M Real Estate Center has published information on liability to help you understand your legal liability for ranch, hunting and tour operations. Look up publication Technical Report 570 “The Texas Deer Lease”
Insurance Companies: examples of companies that can offer policies for recreation enterprises – both water and land operations
- CBIZ Insurance: providing consultation to governmental, non-profit organizations, etc. online at http://www3.cbiz.com/midatlantic/
- K&K Insurance: under Attractions click “Outfitters & Guides” or “Hunting & Fishing” or as appropriate to your operations; http://www.kandkinsurance.com/
- Texas Wildlife Association: offering Hunting and Recreational Lease Operation Liability Insurance Program to TWA Active members from Pat Quirk and Independent Insurance Center, Inc.. Contact Pat Quirk at (210) 821-5080, x122; program information and application online at www.texas-wildlife.org/resources/insurance/
- Texas Farm Bureau Insurance: program offering a policy covering hunting and other recreational activities; www.txfb-ins.com/
- Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association: offers policies that can cover the addition of recreational operations to your agricultural operations; www.texascattleraisers.org/
11. Will I need to “babysit” people to prevent injury or harm?
No. Day visit operations can be significantly different from overnight and multi day experiences as guests may more likely to be unprepared on day visits. Proper footwear is the most common issue for outdoor activities. Inform guests of any rules and known hazards and at least at the beginning guests should be monitored to ensure your understanding of common sense is similar to theirs. A pre-activity interpretive talk about the place that is interesting and includes safety and precautionary measures is a good measure for ensuring the safety of your guests. Properly marketing your operation will help avoid unrealistic expectations and your web site can do a lot to help guests be prepared.
12. Will people want the freedom to do things on their own or should it all be guided?
This depends largely on the experience offered and the market segment which is targeted. In general the more the guests perceive the experience to include danger or need for information, ie history, navigation, entertainment etc, the more they want a guide. In other situations it is the freedom of doing things by themselves outdoors that is the desired experience and a guide would detract from that type of experience. Limited survey information from our La Copita Ranch nature tourism program shows that its the majority of visitors to this site preferred a guided tour to learn about wildlife, local history and agricultural operations, and would not have attended otherwise.
13. How much do I have to know about Wildlife/Birds?
You need to know enough to offer a valuable experience. The programs you offer can often be set up and marketed to match your knowledge however in some cased you/the guide will need be an expert when this is a vital part of the experience you are selling.
Being accurate about what you do say is often more important than how much you know. Use guest questions to guide your research for future tours. The more you know the better however is may not take much knowledge to offer new information to the general public. A study of people who said they enjoyed seeing birds indicated that 97% of them could not identify more than 40 bird species. So if you learn 40 bird species in your area you will probably be seen as knowledgeable to the general visitor. Check out www.enature.com/ for more information on wildlife.
14. Will people leave trash on my land?
As most nature tourism operations target consumers that value nature, trash is usually not a problem. An appropriate waste management plan can address this issue, especially for large groups and large numbers of unguided visitors.. You may consider posting policies; great examples from the Leave no Trace program promoted through the Center for Outdoor Ethics.
15. Are there groups that travel together for these activities?
Yes. There are many tour companies that specialize in various segments of nature, wildlife, adventure, and agricultural tours. However the most common group is couples and small groups and families. For special events and guided tours birders travel in groups and participate in activities together. This may not be the case with every activity offered. Activities that are based on wildlife viewing will generally be very small groups or individuals. Activities that are nature, ie scenery, water based etc are more commonly social group activities.
16. Will I need to serve food?
A meal is not a requirement, though if the program/activity spans a large amount of time a meal might be needed.(whether provided or brought by the customer) A good meal may be an opportunity to add another unique attribute to the experience. Some ranches have dinner around a campfire to simulate a cowboy dinner. This enhances the experience and maybe even the demand for your product.
17. When are the peak times for people to visit?
As a general rule, families travel more during the summer months. Weekend visitation is much more common than weekday travel. Holiday travel is significant. Depending on the activity offered, the peak time may depend on season. This is the case with activities such as hunting. There are only certain times when hunting is allowed. It may important to your operation to understand that the primary reason for most travel is to visit family and friends. Consider how you may help locals entertain thier visiting family and friends.
18. How fancy of a room/guest house do I need?
Once an area has been chosen as a destination, usually based on activities available, travelers look for lodging to match their budget and comfort desires. The accommodations which guests stay in make an impression and factor in as part of the package experience. Therefore the accommodations should at least match the quality of the experience. Though in the Hospitality industry they always say “under-promise and over deliver.” So create guest accommodations that are on par with or above the quality of the experience. Remember cheaper is not always more desirable. People want value and are often willing to pay for it in lodging.
19. How do I market my operation?
Word of mouth is your single most important marketing tool. This may be done by people talking directly with friends or by online reviews and chats. Your interpretive program should help shape guest stories by offering more than expected. One of the simplest and most efficient ways of marketing your operation is to create a website and then advertise your web site. Use your local Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitors Bureau and be news, travel writer and television friendly.
20. How much does it cost to market my operation?
You buy website domain set up a simple web site for under $500. Marketing costs will vary largely and depend on the amount and quality. Some say a general rule of thumb is that marketing costs can be about 5% of gross revenue. It is recommended that you measure the results of marketing efforts to determine which efforts generate profitable sales.
21. Do I need special facilities and if so, what are they?
Restrooms! You need restrooms (or a convenient tree) and probably water. The facilities needed are highly dependent on the specific activity and market your servicing. Besides bathrooms, common facilities needed are parking, rain/sun shelter, trails and quality signs as appropriate. You may want to establish facilities to improve the experience such as a blind for photography or a trail for hiking.
Yes, in most cases. Walking trails are good tools for outlining a path for guests explore the site easily. It also can present a more safe way to move from place to place on your land.
23. How far will people travel to visit my place?
In general travel distances are <45 minutes for a day visit, and up to 250 miles for a weekend visit. Special events and longer stays can merit an unlimited travel time. Travel also varies due to activity and by marketing. If an operation is marketing to a broad area across the nation, it may receive guests from all over. Additionally, some activities attract guests form all over such as specialized birding. Some unique birds only reside in certain environments and therefore can attract visitors from far distances. The best policy is to be prepared for an array of people with different backgrounds or different cultures.
24. What should I do if people complain or cause problems?
Whenever possible complaints should be listened to or a comment form should be provided. Procedures should be in place for unruly customers. These procedures and scenarios should be mapped out during planning for your Nature Tourism operation. Remember to listen to the customer first as their complaint may be easily addressed. It is a good rule to follow the LAUGH acronym for recovery.
- L = Listen to the problem and what the guest has to say
- A = Acknowledge that the problem is important
- U = Understand their viewpoint and show empathy
- G = Give solutions and allow the guest to choose
- H = Hit it home and follow up to ensure the problem is fixed
If you follow these steps and there is still a problem then the guest may need to be removed. Have the contact information for local law enforcement available for emergencies. This is extremely rare.
Yes. For many travelers the web may be the only tool they use. If you don’t have a web site they may consider your operation as unreliable. As stated above, a website is one of the simplest and best forms of marketing. Though it is not required, it is a useful tool that can help grow your operation. Domain names can be purchased very inexpensively. yahoo.com, google.com and other sites provide web site services. You should also evaluate the benefits of offering the guest the option of online credit card purchases. Make it easy to buy your product. See our information on Web Marketing in the Resources section.
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