Ursa International

Red Wolves: Creating Economic Opportunity Through Ecotourism In Rural North Carolina 

Tyrrell & Hyde Counties, North Carolina, USA

Defenders of Wildlife, in Washington, DC, received a grant in October 2003 from The Alex C. Walker Foundation to examine the capacity of rural landowners in northeastern North Carolina to develop new ecotourism opportunities as a way to increase local revenue & promote positive attitudes towards red wolf conservation. 

Dr. Gail Lash was hired as Principal Investigator to conduct a “REAP ? model” project of existing or future tourism supply capacity of Tyrrell & Hyde County residents and to link this, if possible, with a market demand study of tourists visiting the Outer Banks.  With her assistant, Pamela Black, Dr. Lash interviewed 51 adults (resident farmers, fishers, guides, agency personnel, county & town officials, business owners, school educators, and parents), as well as over 50 high school youth.  Community residents were asked about their 1) land & its profile, 2) experiences with visitors, hunters, and agency personnel, 3) costs & benefits of red wolves and other wildlife, 4) local tourist attractions, 5) what tourism opportunities they would supply in future, 6) future needs and next steps, and 7) general information on business targets, capacities, and ideas. 

Tourists were surveyed about 1) their knowledge of red wolves, 2) Red Wolf Center & willingness to pay (WTP), 3) tourist amenities and activities that are important to them, 4) types of activities they would participate in & WTP, 5) day trip packages & WTP, 6) return visits, 7) accommodation preferences, 8) marketing channels used, 9) current travel information, and 10) demographics. 

Community results were placed in a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) format, with Tourist demands and WTP compared and contrasted to community supply.  Recommendations and Next Steps were identified and presented in a Tyrrell County presentation in August 2004 to local stakeholders for clarification & use. 

A complete report on this study’s findings is available starting November 2004 at: http://defenders.org and here on this site’s publication list.