Watching the performance: wildlife tourism in Britain and the 'Springwatch' factor

This source preferred by Susanna Curtin

Authors: Curtin, S.C.

Start date: 1 September 2010

The proliferation of academic literature regarding wildlife tourism points to increased demand for opportunities to watch wildlife in its natural setting. This is also exemplified by the similar expansion of tourism business and NGOs who provide access to wildlife watching opportunities. Whether the attraction of wildlife watching is driven by market forces or whether humans have an inherent desire and need to feel part of nature is still debated by geographers and environmental psychologists. What is more certain, however, is that popular media often plays a significant role in the social construction of animals and nature in terms of determining what is and is not attractive or charismatic. Much of the literature on media and tourism is based upon notions of ‘places’, ‘landscapes’ and ‘people’ rather than ‘habitat’ and ‘species’. During a recent investigation of wildlife tourism in the United Kingdom, it became apparent that the Spring and Autumn Watch television programmes have instilled in their audience a desire to see British wildlife and/or instigated a latent demand for leisure and tourism activities involving wildlife. This paper explores this relatively new phenomenon alongside notions of consumer expectations of performance and the blurred boundaries between home-based interests (i.e. feeding the birds and wildlife gardening) to taking day trips, short and long stays to see wildlife in its natural habitat.

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