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The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland



3.1 This study is underpinned by results from six primary research elements, where data was gathered to help inform the report. Fieldwork for these studies was undertaken from March 2009 to November 2009.

1: Quantitative Survey of Domestic Tourists

3.2 A postal survey of tourists who have previously visited Scotland was conducted. The questionnaire for the main wave of this survey was distributed in May 2009 to 15,000 households across the UK, with 2,620 responses. This survey gives an unbiased estimate of the proportion of domestic tourists visiting Scotland who do so because of wildlife, and represents the first stage in estimating the volume and spend of wildlife visitors to Scotland. Full details of this survey are contained in Annex 1.

2: Quantitative On-Site Survey

3.3 A quantitative on-site survey was conducted from August to October 2009. It gives an estimate of the numbers of day visitors who are motivated by visiting wildlife relative to the numbers of domestic tourists who are motivated in the same way. This, when combined with the results from the postal survey, gives an unbiased estimate of the numbers and spend of wildlife day visitors. It also gives more detailed expenditure on wildlife visitors' spending and additional evidence on their motivation to visit Scotland and to visit wildlife. Full details of this survey are contained in Annex 1.

3: Qualitative Research with Operators

3.4 In order to provide an evidence base for findings about the strength and direction of wildlife tourism in Scotland, interviews and three workshops were conducted with operators in Scotland from April 2009 to November 2009. This research identifies key opportunities of and threats to wildlife tourism in Scotland. Ten in-depth interviews were held, and there were 53 participants in the workshops. Further details of these interviews and workshops are contained in Annex 2.

4: Qualitative Research with Wildlife Tourists

3.5 A participant observation technique was employed to provide deeper answers to questions relating to wildlife visitor motivation than can be gained from other forms of research. This research was conducted with the assistance of wildlife attraction operators. Further details of these participant observations are contained in Annex 2.

5: Qualitative Research with Potential Wildlife Tourists

3.6 Focus groups were held with wildlife enthusiasts in the UK who had either not visited Scotland before, or who had not visited for several years. Key questions of this analysis relate to the reasons why they have not recently visited Scotland, and opportunities that may exist for Scotland to attract this important potential market. Further details of these focus groups are contained in Annex 2.

6: Business Survey

3.7 A survey of wildlife tourism businesses in Scotland was conducted for the purpose of obtaining certain data on employment patterns for use in the economic impact assessment. This survey also included a range of questions that inform other parts of this report, such as business attitudes to the current market situation and future opportunities and threats. 76 responses were received from wildlife attractions, public bodies and accommodation providers.

Methods of Analysis

3.8 The results from the primary research elements have been combined and synthesised in assessments that aim to provide a robust economic impact assessment of wildlife tourism in Scotland as well as providing outputs related to the market trends and the position and potential of the sector. The postal and on-site surveys are combined, with the use of data from the United Kingdom Tourism Survey ( UKTS, see VisitBritain, VisitScotland, Visit Wales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, 2009; VisitScotland 2009). This begins with estimates from the postal survey of the proportion of domestic tourists to Scotland that are primarily motivated by wildlife ('wildlife domestic tourists', top left of Figure 1). This is combined with data from the UKTS to provide an estimate of the number of domestic tourists who are primarily motivated by wildlife.

3.9 The on-site survey is used to estimate the proportion of day visitors who are primarily motivated by wildlife ('wildlife day visitors') to wildlife domestic tourists, which is then multiplied by the estimate of the total number of wildlife domestic tourists, to reach an estimate of the total number of wildlife day visitors.

3.10 Data from the business survey on overseas tourists to domestic visitors is used to inform estimates of the numbers of overseas tourists who are primarily motivated by wildlife ('wildlife overseas tourists') in a similar way, by taking the proportion of overseas tourists to domestic visitors and multiplying by the estimates of the number of domestic wildlife visitors. Because this business survey takes no account of motivations, but relies on estimates of customer numbers, estimates of wildlife overseas tourists are reduced as visitors who have travelled longer distances to Scotland and visit a wildlife site are less likely to be primarily motivated by wildlife and more likely to be undertaking a wildlife activity as part of a longer trip that has different motivations.

Figure 1: Overview of Methodology for Capturing Visitor Volumes

Figure 1: Overview of Methodology for Capturing Visitor Volumes

3.11 Estimates of nights spent on trips and of expenditure are derived in a similar fashion, with the representative and unbiased postal survey being used as a way of informing the overall level of domestic tourism trips and expenditure, and ratios from the other surveys being used to estimate the number of trips and expenditures of wildlife day visitors and wildlife overseas tourists to wildlife domestic tourists to give total values for these.

Economic Impact

3.12 The economic impact assessment provides results relating to the economic contribution and impact of wildlife tourism as a sector in Scotland. This includes the synthesis of expenditure estimates from the quantitative surveys, estimates of the economic value that wildlife tourism brings to Scotland, estimates of the impact of additional wildlife tourism, and estimates of employment in wildlife tourism related activities. These economic impact results are detailed in section 5 of this report.

Market Trends

3.13 Market trends relating to the recent and possible future trends in wildlife tourism are related in section 4 of this report. This draws upon evidence from operators through interviews and the quantitative survey to give a broad view from the industry about where they believe it is likely to be going in the near future.

SWOT Analysis

3.14 The outputs from the range of primary data collection exercises provide the additional evidence base necessary to build upon existing knowledge of the wildlife tourism market and sector in Scotland and provide a clear focus for an analysis of Scotland's wildlife tourism potential. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis synthesises these results to provide a structured view of where wildlife tourism is at the moment and what opportunities and threats exist for the future, from the viewpoint of businesses and visitors. The SWOT analysis is contained in section 7 of this report.

Measuring Economic Impact

3.15 The assessment of the economic importance of tourism spending has a lengthy literature, beginning with estimation of multipliers in the 1970s (e.g. Archer 1973; 1977), with a lengthy development of the estimation of multipliers from input-output models (e.g. Gartner and Holecek 1983; Fletcher 1989; Wanhill 1994; Archer 1996). The methods for calculating input-output multipliers are well documented and have resulted in a vast number of studies at national and local levels (see Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand 2004; and the Scottish Government 2008 'industry multipliers' section for good on-line examples of multiplier estimation). Note that economic impact estimation is distinct from economic valuation (e.g. see Lee, Lee, Mjelde, Scott and Kim 2009) which attempts to measure the value that users and others attach to (typically, environmental) resources.

3.16 A number of issues have arisen related to the use of multipliers from such economic impact studies. Relevant issues are (i) in the calculation of expenditure; and (ii) in the estimation of multipliers.

3.17 Expenditure calculations can differ, particularly for local impact studies, in the definition of tourism (e.g. does it include day visitors or business travellers), in the scope of expenditure (normally, all expenditure in the destination is included, but sometimes different expenditures are treated differently; expenditure on particular items is excluded in some studies) and in the measurement (e.g. the method of sampling; the detail of expenditure questions asked in surveys).

3.18 Differences in the use of multipliers are summarised by recent studies (Dwyer, Forsyth and Spurr 2004; Wilson, Thilmany and Winter 2007) that make the distinction between the economic contribution of tourism and its economic impact.

3.19 Economic contribution is similar to measuring income provided by an industry. This normally counts all income paid to employees, earned as profits or paid as taxes to establish the earnings of each industry, called gross value added ( GVA). When estimating the economic contribution of a demand side activity such as tourism, the normal industry definition cannot be used as tourists purchase products from a variety of different industries, and their spending accounts for only a part of those industries' sales.

  • The direct contribution of tourism expenditure is calculated by adding up the income generated in each industry from which tourists purchase products. A part of each industry's GVA is therefore attributed to be 'generated by' or 'dependent on' tourism expenditure.
  • Each industry, however, also purchases inputs, and earnings are generated in firms that supply those inputs, and that supply inputs to those input producing firms, and so on throughout the entire supply chain of the industry from which tourists are purchasing. The earnings generated in this supply chain can be calculated and summed, which calculates the indirect contribution of tourism expenditure.
  • The direct and indirect contributions can then be summed to produce the economic contribution of tourism. This includes all income, in whatever industry it is earned, that can be attributed to tourism expenditure. The direct plus indirect approach has the notable benefit that if the contributions of all demand activities are added up, they will match the supply side definition of an economy's GVA. The direct and indirect contribution can be calculated by multiplying tourism expenditure by a direct plus indirect ('type I') multiplier. Type I employment multipliers can be used to calculate the employment that is generated by tourism expenditure.

3.20 Economic impact is a means of capturing the changes that take place in an economy as a result of tourism spending. While the same direct and indirect stages can be included, as the direct impact and indirect impact, the measurement of economic impact differs from economic contribution in four ways:

  • The concept of how tourism spending changes an economy has some difficulties. It is easier to imagine the changes that result from additional tourism spending, because economic impact of all tourism expenditure assumes that there is no tourism expenditure to start with, clearly a hypothetical situation in most cases where economic impact is calculated, and describes the effects that tourism expenditure has in terms of income and employment.
  • Induced impacts need to be included, for as workers and owners (and the government) gain income from the direct and indirect stages, they purchase more products for their own consumption. These induced impacts can be added to direct and indirect impacts, and can be calculated by use of a 'type II' multiplier.
  • Displacement (see paragraphs 3.21 to 3.25 below) must be included where tourism spending is likely to increase prices in an economy.
  • Additionality (see paragraphs 3.26 to 3.28 below) must be taken into account where some tourist expenditure would have occurred anyway (it is not additional). Wildlife tourism may, for example, attract tourists to Scotland who would have visited Scotland anyway for another reason.

3.21 Displacement can be summarised as the effect that tourism spending has on raising prices for tourism related products, which in turn deters some tourists who would have spent money in the destination. This can be viewed from the supply side and demand side.

3.22 On the supply side, displacement requires that in order to increase output, firms must incur higher costs in hiring additional workers or expanding infrastructure. This is greater the more that:

  • additional workers must be hired who already have jobs elsewhere,
  • there are profitable uses for other resources - land, buildings, vehicles, etc.,
  • demand is concentrated in a peak season where facilities are already used at or near full capacity.

3.23 Displacement is likely to be lower where:

  • a high level of local unemployment means that most of the skills required for operation can be found from the unemployed labour force,
  • additional workers are hired from outside the local area without pushing up wage rates,
  • other resources have little or no other use; this might be the case for land in an area where brownfield sites are available but would not be used in another industry,
  • demand falls outside of the peak season at times where tourism related firms have spare capacity and when seasonal workers can be retained at the same, or lower, wages that they are paid in the peak season.

3.24 On the demand side, displacement depends on how tourists react to increases in prices, so that displacement will be greater where tourists are more responsive to prices. This is likely to be where:

  • a destination offers a product very similar to products being offered elsewhere,
  • other destinations are easily accessible to the tourism market being served by the destination in question,
  • the type of tourism in question is readily substitutable with non-tourism activities. In the case of wildlife tourism in Scotland, this might mean that wildlife tourists from the rest of the UK might react to an increase in prices by switching to wildlife activities at or near home rather than taking a wildlife holiday in Scotland.

3.25 When considering displacement in a Scottish context, a further complexity is to what extent displacement in one part of Scotland will lead to substitution by visitors not away from Scotland but diversion to other parts of Scotland. This diversion effect has both supply and demand side aspects, e.g.

  • to what extent does an increase in visitor demand in one region increase prices in that region only, or do firms in that region hire labour and other resources from across Scotland, increasing prices at the national level;
  • when prices rise in one region, are potential visitors likely to divert to other regions of Scotland or to be displaced entirely.

3.26 Additionality requires that tourists would not otherwise have visited the same destination in the absence of the attraction in question being available. For an individual attraction, this means that the spending of a visitor who would otherwise have visited a different attraction in the same destination would not be included in an economic impact assessment. For a group of attractions such as wildlife operators, or an encompassing activity such as wildlife tourism, it is important to distinguish between visitors who would have visited another attraction within that group or activity and those who would have made a different type of trip to the same destination. While the former are not additional when assessing the economic impact of the attraction that they visited, they need to be counted as additional when assessing the whole activity.

3.27 When considering wildlife tourism, therefore, it is important to include as additional those visitors for whom wildlife is the attraction that has prompted their visit but who would otherwise have visited another wildlife attraction in the same locality. When considering the individual attraction that prompted their visit, these visitors would not be additional to the locality, as they would visit another wildlife attraction there, but for the industry as a whole they are additional.

3.28 The definition of the locality under consideration is an important aspect of additionality. When considering the impact of wildlife tourism in the whole of Scotland, it is important to discount visitors who would otherwise have visited somewhere else in Scotland (they are not additional), and of residents of Scotland who would otherwise spend their money on something else within Scotland. When considering a region within Scotland, these considerations need to be based on the region itself.