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One Of The Fastest-Growing Sectors Of The Tourism Industry

Latin America's whale watchers: one million strong and growing

eTN  Jun 24, 2008

SANTIAGO, Chile - Latin America's whale watching industry has experienced a growth surge, with direct income from ticket sales more than quadrupling in the past 15 years and more than one million whale watchers expected this year alone, according to a new report released today by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - and other whale conservation groups. IFAW experts say the report provides further validation that the economic value of the whale watching industry is a real and more lucrative alternative to hunting whales.

The report, The State of Whale Watching in Latin America, was released today at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), where more than 80 countries from around the world are debating the future of whaling and whale protection.

"Whale watching is a win-win solution for whales and coastal communities worldwide," said Patrick Ramage, director of IFAW's global whale program. "The phenomenal success of Latin America's whale watching industry proves whale watching is a sustainable and lucrative alternative to killing whales."

Between 1998 and 2006, the number of countries offering whale watching trips in Latin America has expanded from eight to 18. Much of the income has helped to benefit the region's small, rural coastal communities, where whale watching operations are primarily located. The number of these communities benefiting from the economic development of whale watching has risen dramatically from 56 to 91. During the same time period, the number of whale watchers (visits) increased from 243,892 to 885,679, generating USD $79.4 million from direct ticket sales and $278.1 million from both direct and indirect tourism expenditures (hotels, restaurants, etc.).

Whale watching is also one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry. Since 1998, Latin America's whale watching industry has grown three times as fast as the world tourism industry overall, and 4.7 times as fast as the Latin American tourism industry.

"This is a sustainable industry that benefits coastal communities socioeconomically, educationally and environmentally for years to come. It's the responsibility of our governments to defend our right to whale watching versus whaling," said Beatriz Bugeda, director of IFAW Latin America.

Some 64 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises - 75% of known cetacean species - are found around Latin America, providing whale watchers in the region with an incredible diversity of species to watch and learn about.

IFAW has been working around the world for decades to protect whales and their habitat.

Latin America's whale watchers: one million strong and growing

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