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The Holbrook Insider


Conservation Corner: How Travel Planners Can Support Sustainability in Key Regions

Jun 20, 2017 |


| by Christopher Bensley

International Alliance Program Bolsters Local Communities and Conservation

In developing countries around the world, it’s no wonder that a lack of economic opportunity can cause people to work in activities that degrade the natural resources - such as logging, poaching, and land clearing for agriculture. To address this issue that is depleting bird populations, National Audubon Society launched the “International Alliances Program” several years ago to promote bird-based tourism in key areas of Latin America.

How can travel planners and nature organizations help?

The short answer is to offer trips to the affected regions. Earlier this month, Audubon held a 3-day event that brought together multi-country representatives to Washington, DC to send an important message: Birds Mean Business. The meetings capped the completion of a $2.6 million project between National Audubon Society and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to foster high-value sustainable birding tourism projects in the Americas.

Ecotourism is an economic alternative that can raise incomes in communities living close to biodiversity-rich areas, while helping to conserve natural capital. The IAP project helped improve the infrastructure and capacity of bird-based tourism for communities with education, training and support.

Results from the IAP Program initial phase

The results so far have been impressive:

  • 408 local business owners participated in trainings

  • 276 guides trained at the basic level; 72 at the advanced level

  • 124 guides improved English skills through training, research and knowledge sharing

  • 27 local businesses now promote bird tourism

  • 5,526 children received environmental/bird education classes

In addition to leaders from the five targeted countries (Belize, Guatemala, Bahamas, Colombia, and Paraguay), several graduates of the guide certification were on hand to share their excitement for bringing more business to their communities. Holbrook’s Debbie Sturdivant Jordan reunited with local guides and community members from her recent visit to Belize and Guatemala and announced several U.S. birding organizations that are supporting the initiative with trips this coming year.

Help support this important initiative

To support this initiative, Audubon is calling upon travel providers and nature organizations to take the next step. Holbrook Travel has responded by introducing Flyway Expeditions, a series of birding tours in partnership with Audubon to key communities while simultaneously protecting biodiversity and natural resources.

For more information on the program, visit our webpages on Flyway Expeditions or contact Chris Bensley at

Photo by Dominic Sherony