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A Blueprint For Tourism Engagement In Sustainability & Conservation

Presented by Chris Desmond, Founder & Director 10, 000 Islands Dolphin Project Sea Excursions Inc.


Premise y That private enterprise, when engaging the general public as “citizen scientists� in structured and disciplined field survey research, will result in: y A financially successful venture. y Raised public awareness in sustainability, conservation and preservation. y In-depth field research for use by resource managers. y An extended reach for science not dependent on grants / public funding.


The Setting y Location – Marco Island/Naples in Southwest Florida. y Called “Florida’s Last Paradise”. y Tourism mainstay of local economy. y Bordered by: y Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve y The 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge y Both areas are prime examples of nearly pristine subtropical estuaries.


Rookery Bay & 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge -110,000 acres -200 species of fish -189 species of

birds -Bottlenose dolphins, river otters, deer, bobcats & raccoons common to area. -Alligators, crocodiles, bald eagles, Florida panthers, manatee and woodstorks.


Marco Island


Vast Array of Sea Shells


Vast Array of Marine Birds


Manate e Between May and September, when the water temperature is between 80 and 91 degrees, manatee are frequently sighted.


Coastal Bottleno se Dolphins -Favorite

attraction of both visitors & residents. -Sighted every day of the year.


Background y Sea Excursions, Inc. needed to re-focus its traditional consumer oriented excursion. y Over the years, a saturation of “like tours� developed in the area. y Affluent Visitors & Part-Time Residents y High-End Hotels ( Ritz Carltons, Marriotts, Hiltons ) y Gated Communities ( 40 ) y Area has become one of the fastest growing in Florida.


Family Oriente d Median Age of Household Head is 46.3 Median Size of Family is 3 Avg. Income is $135,429 89.5% plan to return. - Avg. Length of Stay 5 Days -

-Source: Research Data Services

-


Objectives y Establish a “unique” purpose/reason for the trip. y Center on one subject. y Stake out a geographic “franchise”. y Include other subjects to compliment main theme. y Engage passengers in various aspects of trip. y Become recognized as “the best” in the area.


Objectives ( continued) y Establish a dolphin data base that both visitors and resource managers would be interested in. y Establish high standards. y Attract “the best� staff. y Attract media attention. y Concept could be rolled-out in stages. y Establish marketing program around the above.


Blueprint Develope d Dolphins selected as central subject of expedition: -Favorite attraction of area. -As a top predator, a leading “canaryin-the-coal mine�. - Develop Field Survey research adaptable to passenger participation.


Blueprint Developed y Designed an experience that guests were participating in/contributing to, that has merit and contributed to sustainability, conservation and preservation. y No other organization centered on subject in the area. y Sense of adventure, discovery and exploration y Intense, but fun learning experience. y Involve all ages y Collaborate with research organizations, universities and government agencies.


Signature Expedition y Three hours long & focuses on four subject

areas: y Study of wild bottlenose dolphins. (50%) y Other marine life. (10%) y Barrier island marine life. (30%) y Backwater estuaries. (10%)


Dolphin Explorer -36’ powered

catamaran -28 passengers -Excellent survey vessel for Gulf, bays and estuaries.


Signature Expedition (continued) y Passengers participate in dolphin survey work: y “Dolphins at 3 o’clock!” y Counting the number of dolphins sighted. y Identifying sighted dolphins using our catalogs. y We discuss how we identify dolphins, association patterns, past sighting and behavior y Newly sighted dolphins are named by passengers. y Participation in the Dolphin Challenge.


Notch (se13002) & Friends


Signature Expedition (continued) y The Dolphin Explorer makes frequent stops to discuss other marine life, habitat and cultural heritage : y A,B,C Islands y Rookery Bay y Osprey nests y Wading birds y We share photographic catalogs taken over the years of the vast array of marine birds in the area.


Wading Birds


Bill & Hillary


Signature Expedition (continued) y Barrier island experience: y On-Board Naturalist accompanies passengers. y Great interest in sea shells and their origin. y Discussion of loggerhead turtles ( May through Sept.)


Beaches on Barrier Islands


Signature Expedition (continued) y Use of photos to educate / promote trip: y On-board digital printer. y Share prints of dolphins sighted on trip and catalog with passengers. y Complimentary photos of families, dolphins and marine birds. y Label on back of photos.


Body of Dolphin Survey Work y Abundance, Distribution, Movement, Association Patterns and Behavior. y Individual dolphins are identified by using a universally accepted approach, the photoidentification of the dorsal fin‌their fingerprint. y Each dolphin is named and coded. y For each sighting, up to 20 items of data are recorded t include date and time, GPS and visual location, behavior and number of dolphins.


Trigge r ( SE10001) First sighted 01/09/06 Female “Residential” Had calf in 02/07 Hangs out with “Giza”


Ripple (SE10002) & Rangle (SE8009) First sighted in January, 2006 Residential Ripple , a calf, is now between 4 and 5 years old.


Nibbles (SE7006) & Jason


Body of Survey Work (continued) y y y y y

To date, over 1,500 sightings 170 individual dolphins “photo-identified� 12,000 photographs Huge data base soon to be stored on-line Proprietary Microsoft Access 2007 software designed to contain and analyze data/photos y Data / analysis made available. y Introducing powerful on-board PC Tablet.


“YOY” TOSS October 2007 Halfway ( SE9004) With days old calf “Paradise” Older sibling “Seymour” joins them frequently.


Body of Survey Workcontinued y In Area I: y There are 100 dolphins that are residential or semiresidential. y Approximately 10 new calves born each Fall. y Most remain in Area I twelve months a year. y “Fusion/Fission” society. y “Play Dates” y Maternity Groups y Sub-Adults y Male Pair Bonds


Coming to study us!


Young Calf


Body of Survey Work (continued) y Few shark attack markings observed. y Approximately 2% have some skin markings/disease. y In 2007, charter fishing captains began to report dolphins taking fish off lines. y Major problem for dolphins and fishermen.

y Collaborate with MOTE Marine Labs, NOAA and the University of Florida.


Bursting with energy!


Getting a Good Look!


Hitching A Ride


Dolphin Explorer Club -Established to engage &

educate families and to stimulate word-of-mouth and return clients. -“Dolphin Challenge” is

on-board activity that engages families in the expedition and inducts them into the Club. Children receive our official Survey Team patch. - “Dolphin Explorer Club” provides monthly newsletter


Survey Team Patch -Awarded to

children ages 6 12 -Wear the patch, get a free trip. -Children love the patch.


2008 Marketing / Media Plan y Positive Results: y

Collier County Visitors & Convention Bureau ( CVB) y y

y

Excellent relationship, source of business and media coverage Superb staff

Direct Marketing y y y

“Two for Ones� to timeshares and concierge at local hotels Weekly presentations at timeshares Brochures & Booth at Marco River Marina

Local magazine advertising/ article y Internet ( 40% of public passengers ) y Word-of-Mouth/Repeat Business y


Sea Excursions’ Group Business The Expedition has become a center- piece for marketing, through area hotels, to visiting groups, i.e. companies , organizations and associations holding meetings.


2008 Marketing / Media Plan y Limited Results/ Not Used: y

Local newspapers y

y

y

y

Advertising is not appropriate to Project and very ineffective /costly. News stories are one day event & take valuable time. y Have collateral use. Not read by visitors

Radio/TV y y

Advertising not appropriate to Project, ineffective/costly. News stories are one day, 30 second events.


2008 Marketing / Media Plan y Deemed Valuable Participation in National Geographic’s 2008 Geotourism Challenge y Featured in PBS’s Television Documentary “Discover South Florida” y Featured on Peter Greenburg’s ( NBC’s TODAY SHOW’s Travel Editor ) Syndicated Radio Show y


Blueprint For 2009 y Expansion: y

Opening Area II of Phase 1 of Study: y

y

y

Fulfills Project’s Timetable to study dolphins south of Marco Island. Appeals to potential “repeat” customers to sight/name new dolphins & explore/discover new areas.

Opening Phase 2 , Area I ( Naples )of Study: y y

Fulfills Project’s Timetable to study dolphins in Naples area. Opens major new passenger market.


Blueprint for 2009 (continued) y Marketing: y

Marco Island y y

y

Closer relationship with Hilton timeshares. Additional brochure locations.

Naples y y

Weekly contact with concierge of Naples hotels. Weekly contact with Gated Communities.

Regional / National Magazines y Increase advertising/ sponsor relationships y


Advertising Sponsorships


Blueprint for 2009 ( continued ) y Two Day Expeditions: y Weekends, once a month to start. y 10 to 16 participants. y Divided into “Survey Teams�, rotating

assignments. y 16 hours on water y Singularly focused on dolphin survey work. y Work in the evening on photo-identification & analysis.


Conclusions y A clear mission has emerged: To engage the general public in the adventure of a hands-on, professional dolphin research encounter in remote, never-studied areas resulting in meaningful data for resource managers and, for passengers, a unique, closeup experience in discovery, exploration and education in marine life and habitat.


Conclusions ( continued ) y We believe: y After 3 years of work, the premise presented at the top of this presentation is valid and can be replicated elsewhere. y There is the opportunity of transforming a slice of “eco-tourism” into more scientific productive “eco-tourism”.


The 10,000 Island Dolphin Project; A Blueprint for Tourism Engagement in Sustainability...