It’s that time of year again. Floridans refer to it as “season”. Visitors just call it “vacation”.
We love our northern guests. They stimulate our local economy and bring an energy that reminds us how fortunate we are to live here 365 days a year.
Unfortunately, an unintended byproduct of tourism can be increased pollution and hazards to our wildlife and marine habitats.
But before you find yourself yelling at that midwesterner feeding the seagulls on the beach (we’ve all been there) here are 5 Tips on how you can help educate tourists and encourage conservation.
1. Set a good example yourself
Enjoying a day at the beach or out on the boat? Do what the old owl says- “Give a hoot and don’t pollute”. Remember, what you do, others will follow.
Speaking of feathered friends, did you know that Tampa Bay is the home to over 25 species of migrating and breeding seabirds including pelicans, herons and egrets, all of which are at risk from the careless disposal of trash such as cups, plastic bags, beer cans, and fishing line?
Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags! Americans use over 100 billion (billion!) plastic bags annually!
2. Be friendly and offer advice, not criticism
Picture the scene, you are a local, enjoying a sunny day at the beach with your family. It’s why we are all here. You may be annoyed by that visiting tourist feeding the gulls, fishing just a little too close to swimming areas, or picnicking with all their plastic bags and garbage blowing in the breeze. Instead of criticizing our visiting friends:
• Introduce yourself as a local with a friendly smile
• Offer some friendly tips on conserving the area
• Suggest guests visit a local marine aquarium or research facility like the Marine Exploration Center.
3. Go social
Surely you have northern friends and family who follow you on social channels like Facebook. Instead of teasing them with pics of the beach while they sit in a snowbank, use it as an opportunity to share posts and messages that pertain to the importance of responsible conservation and tourism. Share interesting images and reports on marine life and habitats to help familiarize future guests with the real Florida - the way we love it and want to keep it for years to come.
4. Encourage stays at hotels engaged in conservation initiatives
• Water conservation that has reduced consumption 30%
• Erosion management that includes planting of sea oats and native plant species
• Coastal habitat conservation, partnering with groups like Tampa Bay Watch
• Energy conservation including use of energy star appliances
• The first resort in Florida to use turtle friendly lighting
• Eco-friendly bus stops in front of resorts
5. Host your own clean up project on a nearby beach or waterway. Offer the experience on AirBnB or other social and travel sites.
EcoTourism is on the rise. More people truly want to help and become involved than come and cause damage. But many don’t know where to turn other than just being responsible visitors themselves.
Lead the movement and set up your own clean up project- share socially and on sites like AirBnB. Meet new friends and make a difference for our beautiful environment.
It’s what Florida living is all about.