Travel Trend: Jaguar Spotting In Brazil

While tiger tourism is still the most popular type of cat viewing, there is another trend that is on the rise: Jaguar spotting. For those who have already watched tigers in their natural habitat – and even for some who have not yet had the pleasure – traveling to see wild jaguars is becoming a must-have experience.

There is a big difference in spotting tigers and jaguars, nonetheless. While tiger tourism features many reliable viewing spots, jaguars are much more elusive. However, this also means that actually spotting one is a great achievement.

At the moment, the most reliable place to spot jaguars is Puerto Jofre on the Cuiabá River in the Pantanal, Brazil. Luckily, the chances are pretty high, as there are 50 to 100 habitual cats. Other places where jaguar spotting is possible include Guyana, Peru and the Brazilian Amazon.

“We’re finding a growing interest in South America‘s National Parks,” explains Catherine Strong of Naturetrek, a company offering wildlife tours around the world. “Jaguars in particular, but also in the wealth of other iconic large mammals that can be seen in the Pantanal. The number of clients booking our dedicated Jaguar watching tour has more than doubled since we first offered the tour in 2009, and bookings to Brazil’s Pantanal has increased six-fold during the same period.”


The area wasn’t always prosperous with jaguars. In fact, at times they were very scarce. It wasn’t until the mid-90’s that ranch owners in the Pantanal decided to try their luck in the tourism business. At this time, they began offering visitors the opportunity to view and photograph these beautiful animals. In effect, these massive pieces of land were offering a sanctuary for the big cats. If this hadn’t happened, jaguar tourism would not be as successful as it is today.

“Back in the 80’s the Pantanal, most of which is not a National Park, consisted of huge cattle ranches. Jaguars were extensively hunted due to them occasionally hunting cows,” explains Allan Blanchard, a conservationist and owner of Wildlife Trails. “If you talk to people from that era they will tell you that, apart from during a hunt, they would not see jaguars for months at a time. Now, it is almost daily.”

Industry Concerns

While jaguar spotting is usually an exciting and worthwhile experience for tourists, there are concerns in the industry.

“I would like to state as a biologist and conservationist that there is a big question to address now, and that is the impact of this increased number of tourists,” says Blanchard. “Unfortunately, there are always a few ‘bad eggs’ who take their boat or vehicle too close to the wildlife, causing unnecessary stress. Because this wildlife viewing is not happening inside a National Park, it is more difficult to regulate.”

In order to help tourists spot more jaguars, many tour companies are using questionable practices. According to Josh Cohen of Wild Planet Adventures, a nature-travel and ecotourism operation, some of these include collaring jaguars so they can be found by tourists, and using radios so guides can notify each other when the big cats are spotted. These tactics result in myriad boats rushing to the area at once, contributing to the habituation of jaguars. However, there is a silver lining in the situation.

“The area in question is mostly visited by ‘do-it-yourself’ tourists because it is at the end of the Transpanteria Road, which, until recently, was accessible by any tourist willing to rent a vehicle,” explains Cohen. “Vehicle rentals are now restricted, and those willing to eschew the lower cost effectiveness of mass tourism will find jaguar opportunities that may cost more and involve more travel and logistics, but will have less impact on wildlife.”


In 2001, Cohen visited the Pantanal to conduct research on the subject, avoiding the tourist-heavy Transpanteria Road route and the Puerto Jofre area. Instead, he focused on an area several hours west around the Taiama Ecological Station. One reason is the logistics of getting there are more costly than the average budget traveler is willing to invest, making it less dense with tourists. Furthermore, the area is federally protected and not open to the public or tour operators. However, since the reserve sits on an island in the middle of the river, it is possible to circle the reserve in search of the jaguars. What’s more, spotting jaguars in this less touristy area allows for the viewing of more wild behavior in the animals.

“This is extremely important, as the long-term consequence of habituated jaguars is the loss of authentic, wild behavior, which is replaced by more tame, bored behavior that inevitably results in more conflict with humans. Ultimately, mass tourism practices could turn the Pantanal into a version of the San Diego Wild Animal Park, unless travelers are educated in the value of paying more to preserve, not just wildlife, but to assure authentic wild behavior is maintained through limited interaction and sustainable ecotourism practices.”

The bottom line? Whether you choose to take the more off-the-beaten path route or visit the popular Puerto Jofre, make sure you’re booking with a reputable company. While the trend of jaguar tourism is growing, we wouldn’t want it to die out before it’s reached its peak.

[Photo via the US Fish and Wildlife Service]

‘Guam: The New Maldives’ and other Chinese tourism trends

In 2012, trips originating from China will comprise an estimated 8 percent of total world travel. The China Tourism Academy estimates that 80 million Chinese residents will travel overseas, spending an estimated US$80 billion. That’s a significant chunk of the market.

In a recent article, CNNGo’s Shanghai editor Tracy You set out to demystify the Chinese traveler and predict the future of Chinese outbound tourism. Among her observations:

Many of the newer Chinese tourists are middle class. Travel is no longer reserved for the wealthy; more students and people from the working class are now venturing abroad. You predicts packed economy-class hotels in major tourism markets during traditional Chinese holidays like Spring Festival, summer vacations and early October.

Shopping is important, but so is nature. While Chinese tourists have a reputation for being shopaholics, most actually express a desire to explore natural settings and island escapes.

Cameras and Chinese menus are must-haves. A top priority for Chinese travelers is to photograph and be photographed, You reports. And while many stick to food they’re familiar with, many are willing to try local food if given ordering advice and menus in Chinese.

More Chinese are traveling independently. While tour groups are still the most convenient and common way for Chinese people to travel, more people are venturing out on their own or in small groups. You predicts that more Chinese will join the traditional backpacking routes of Europe, the United States and Southeast Asia.

Guam is the next big Chinese tourism destination. The United States island territory is already a popular getaway for Japanese and Korean tourists, and it has the natural beauty, shopping and island atmosphere that many Chinese tourists crave. You says that with the right infrastructure, it could join the Maldives as a top destination in the coming years.


After the royal wedding: a boost for travel to UK

The big event is over and the attention of the world has moved along to other stories but the verdict is in: the Royal wedding brought a huge spike in travel to the UK.

“Travelers from across the globe arrived in London to watch and be a part of one of the biggest events in history, with visitors from Europe, to Australia and Asia. Londoners and tourists camped outside Westminster Abbey for two days, hoping to get glimpse of Kate and William and the royal family” reports Breaking Travel News.

It looks like all the attention via television, websites and print media should bring more travelers to the UK over the long haul too.

“The royal wedding is a gift – it’s an accelerator. It takes the brand of Great Britain up people’s consideration list. The key is everything else you do after that,” Zaid Al-Zaidy, marketing specialist at the U.K.-based marketing firm TBWA told CBC news.

Our friends at AOLTravel covered the event extensively and told us the Palace released a statement as the newlyweds walked the royal grounds, saying: “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen not to depart for a honeymoon immediately. Instead, after spending the weekend privately in the United Kingdom, The Duke will return to work as a Search and Rescue pilot next week. The locations of both their private weekend and their future honeymoon, which will be overseas, will not be disclosed in advance.”

If you were climbing a mountain, hiking, out of the loop for some reason or just can’t give up that royal wedding mania feeling, here is a sampling of stories leading up to the big even as well as some video and photos you might enjoy either viewing or ignoring:

Travel Trends: Theme park attendance down, Disney remains strong

The outlook for theme parks in 2010 is quite upbeat compared to 2009. Last year, attendance slipped as the rough economy forced millions of people to stay home and snap shut their wallets.

This year, the improving economy, coupled with dozens of new attractions opening at parks around the country, is expected to pump up attendance figures at North American theme parks.

“The industry is well positioned to have a good year this year,” says Gene Jeffers, executive director at the Themed Entertainment Association. “They actually did well last year, considering the economy.”

In 2009, attendance at North America’s 20 most-visited theme parks slipped 1.1% from 2008, to 121.4 million visits, according to newly released data from the TEA.

Disney’s parks in Florida and California, however, bucked the downward trend by posting year-to-year increases.

In fact, the number 1 amusement park was Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World with just over 17.2 million visitors, up 1% from 2008.These parks are less affected by downturns in the domestic economy than many other parks since so many visitors come from overseas. Disney, and other parks, also worked hard to attract visitors with favorable pricing.

“Disney has so many resources that they can make hotel-park combo deals,” explains Jeffers. “They tried to make sure that, even in difficult times, people could come for the day and enjoy the park.”

Still, many other destination parks posted declines. The same was true for many regional parks that heavily rely on locals to lift attendance figures.

For instance, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay posted a 12.3% decline, to 4.1 million visitors. Kings Island in Ohio was down 4%, to 3 million visitors.

In 2010, the outlook for the theme park industry is good due in part the improving economy.

But another factor playing into this is that dozens of new attractions are opening this year. Among these is the 5,100-foot-long rollercoaster Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion in Virginia; the first phase of the new Luna Park Coney Island in New York City; and of course the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

“That’s a fairly large factor in our outlook,” says Nima Samadi, industry analyst at research firm IBISWorld. He expects U.S. attendance at all theme parks to increase 2.8% over 2009, when attendance by his estimate slumped 4.6% from 2008.

“Nearly everyone has been to a theme park before,” says Samadi. “So, the parks really need to entice people with new attractions to get them to come back.”


Data source: Themed Entertainment Association

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Travel Trends: Caribbean is most popular cruise destination, but niche markets growing fast

For the first nine years of the 21st Century, the Caribbean Islands have been the most popular cruise destination for travelers from around the world, according to figures provided by the Cruise Lines International Association.

Each year since 2000, about one-third of people who cruised chose to do so in the Caribbean. However, from a high of 42% in 2002, the number of travelers dropped to 32% in 2009, suggesting that the Caribbean may no longer have the appeal it once did.

Significant increases in nights spent aboard a cruise ship by travelers were recorded in those choosing the Mediterranean as a cruise destination. In 2000, the Mediterranean represented 12% of the cruise market. In 2009, it was chosen by 16% of travelers.

Niche markets growing fast
The largest gain, however, was reported in small ship cruises to Antarctica. In 2000, the destination was chosen by less than 1% of all cruisers. By 2009, Antarctica saw a 23% gain in cruise travelers — though the total number of cruisers to Antarctica remained at less than 3% of all cruisers.Such a significant growth in Antarctica as a destination reinforces comments by Larry Dressler, executive director of the Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance, who says the number of beds available to those interested in a small ship experience has grown from 200,000 in 2005 to about 500,000 by the end of 2010.

“It’s really hard to pinpoint the exact number of people who take advantage of small ship cruises or niche cruises, because of the unique experience of this type of travel,” said Dressler. “A number of opportunities are on freighters and ships not necessarily known as a cruise ship, and keeping track of who is going where in that realm is nearly impossible.”

A small ship is identified as carrying fewer than 500 passengers — some as few as only a couple of dozen. Simply because of the size of the ships, guests should not expect a large quantity of onboard facilities found on some of the better-known “mega ships.” There is usually one dining facility, limited shopping, few casinos, and minimal onboard entertainment. That’s okay, though, because, “The destination has to be the focus of small ship cruising,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of, pointing out that places like the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica can only be seen via a small ship.

CLIA reports the overall growth rate of cruising from 1990 – 2008 at 7.2%. The nights spent aboard a cruise ship by all travelers grew from 53.8 million in 2000 to 96.2 in 2009.


Source data: Cruise Line International Association

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