True value of wildlife tourism
Wildlife tourism plays a vital part in Scotland's rural economy, pulling in millions of pounds and also creating many hundreds of job opportunities.
These findings were contained in a Scottish Government report - 'The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland' - published today.
The report found that wildlife tourism annually brings in a net economic impact of £65 million to Scotland's economy and creates the equivalent of 2,760 full time jobs.
The report also found that 1.12 million trips were made every year to or within Scotland with the main aim of viewing wildlife. This form of tourism appealed greatly to UK-based visitors and Scots themselves, accounting for 56 per cent of trips. And it was these UK visitors who generated 75 per cent of the income.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
"Tourism is vital to Scotland's economic recovery. As one of Europe's leading year-round wildlife destinations with a world famous reputation for natural heritage, Scotland has a great deal to offer. Whether watching whales from a boat in the Minch, walking in the glens or viewing puffins and seals around Inchcolm Island, visitors clearly value Scotland's fascinating wildlife.
"Wildlife tourism is becoming increasingly popular, generating significant benefits for the economy and coastal communities. With this in mind, we need to ensure that we safeguard our marine environment for the future. Scotland's Marine Act offers enhanced protection for wildlife and will help deliver economic growth for key business sectors.
"Marine planning will ensure an appropriate balance between development, protection and recreation. Marine Protected Areas will help us safeguard the marine environment, including iconic species and habitats that tourists come to see."
Tourism Minister Jim Mather said:
"This research confirms that wildlife tourism in particular is a growing sector - generating a net economic impact of around £65 million for our economy. Viewing wildlife is the main driver behind over one million trips to Scotland every year - and over half of those are made by UK tourists. This helps to support over 2,700 full time jobs.
"Our stunning seas and coasts support a wealth of wildlife and play a key role in attracting visitors at home and abroad. The public's increasing awareness and interest in our marine environment is being translated into tangible economic benefits - and we will ensure that this isn't at a cost to our natural environment.
"I congratulate everyone involved in delivering such an impressive achievement."
Lloyd Austin, Head of Conservation Policy at RSPB Scotland, said:
"We warmly welcome the publication of this new research, which underlines the economic value of wildlife tourism in addition to its intrinsic value.
"Over 50 years since their return we have shown ospreys to hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Loch Garten reserve. This demonstrates why wildlife conservation and enhancement should be a core objective of government policy, not just for its own sake but as a contribution to Scotland's well-being and future prosperity.
"It also shows the importance of ensuring that damage to our most important and precious natural assets is not permitted, but avoided at any cost."
Susan Davies, director policy and advice at Scottish Natural Heritage, said:
"It's very heartening, particularly in the International Year of Biodiversity, that the economic benefits of wildlife and scenery are being more widely recognised. This underlines the importance of our work with the tourism sector to ensure developments and activities are sustainable. It is equally important to ensure that people have ample opportunity and accessible information to help them enjoy Scotland's nature."
The Scottish Government commissioned research was carried out by Bournemouth University to discover the economic impact of wildlife tourism for Scotland. It assessed the impact across three sectors: land, coast and sea.
Wildlife tourism involves visitors, be they overnight tourists or day visitors, making a trip for which the primary purpose is to view, study and/or enjoy wildlife (animals, plants and other organisms) on land or at sea/lake. This includes visitors who take a wildlife watching holiday or who make a specific trip to a wildlife visitor attraction such as a wildlife park or wildlife visitor centre. It also includes visitors who make a trip to the countryside, coast or sea to view wildlife. This report does not include consumptive wildlife tourism i.e. hunting, shooting and fishing.
The study found that a total of £276 million is spent by tourists making the 1.12 million trips each year. Spending by wildlife visitors brings about increases in income in Scotland and extra jobs both within the wildlife industry, in hotels and other accommodation sectors, in other visitor attractions, and through a variety of supply-chain linkages.
The gross economic impact of tourism reflects income and employment generated by visitor spending through the tourism sectors and in the supply chains of these sectors. It also includes income and employment that is generated because incomes in the tourism sectors and their supply chains lead to further additional spending.
Net economic impact takes into account two other factors, additionally and displacement. Additionally considers how much of the wildlife tourism spending would not have been spent in Scotland if viewing wildlife was not an option for visitors. It removes, for example, spending by visitors who would have made a visit to some other type of attraction in Scotland. Displacement takes into account constraints in the provision of services that mean that, for example, some wildlife tourists use bed spaces that would otherwise have filled by other tourists; and some of the jobs generated by wildlife tourism involve a worker who has moved from gainful employment elsewhere.
After considering these factors, the net economic impact of wildlife tourism in Scotland is found to be £65 million, with around 2,760 jobs in existence because of the activities of wildlife tourism in Scotland.