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The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland



4.1 There have been a number of wildlife tourism-related studies undertaken over the last decade or so which need to be reviewed to help provide an evidence base for the current study, and also to help inform the development of a robust approach to meet the study objectives.

4.2 Recent growth in the range and volume of wildlife tourism activities worldwide (e.g. see Mintel 2008; UNEP 2006) has led to awareness of the impact that wildlife tourism activities have on local communities. In Scotland, this has led to a number of studies estimating the economic impact of wildlife tourism and similar activities.

4.3 There is no single definition of wildlife tourism that is used by all researchers. The broad term 'wildlife tourism' is used to describe an extensive range of different wildlife-based trips which can be segmented according to both the level of involvement inherent in the tourists' motivations, the length of engagement and the type of flora and fauna. 'Wildlife holidays', however, are distinct from other nature-based holiday activities insofar as the main motivation to visit a destination is to see and gain an understanding of the local fauna and flora without harming the natural environment (Duffus and Dearden 1990).

4.4 Reynolds and Braithwaite (2001) show that wildlife tourism (or wildlife-based tourism, WBT, in their terminology) overlaps in sometimes complex ways with other forms of tourism. Rural tourism, nature-based tourism and ecotourism are all terms that overlap, or in the case of nature-based tourism, include, wildlife-based tourism.

4.5 Several studies have focussed on wildlife tourism in Scotland at a national level (A&M 2002a, 2002b; Rowan Tree Consulting 2008; The Tourism and Environment Forum 2006), providing estimates of the size of the sector in terms of supply and employment. However, there are differences in the types of tourism included in these studies compared with those included in the definition of wildlife tourism used for this research. Although A&M (2002) and Rowan Tree Consulting (2008) focus on sites and facilities offering wildlife viewing experiences, these sites are not necessarily limited to this and may also offer other forms of wildlife tourism (i.e. consumptive) and other types of nature-based tourism. This is more notable in the Tourism and the Environment Forum (2006) review, which extended to include both wildlife and nature tourism providers.

4.6 Other UK and Scottish national studies have been conducted but these have a much broader scope and only include wildlife tourism as an element (e.g. RPA & Cambridge Econometrics, 2008), which makes it difficult to separate out the impacts of wildlife tourism alone. In contrast, some studies have had a much narrower focus on a particular type of wildlife tourism, e.g. marine wildlife tourism (Masters et al 1998), whale-watching (Warburton, Parsons, Woods-Ballard, Hughes and Johnston 2001), however even here problems can emerge especially when supply-side surveys are conducted and sites or facilities are included which may also cater for other types of tourism. This highlights the complexity of researching the wildlife tourism sector due to the many overlaps with other types of tourism, and this needs to be considered when selecting an approach to adopt.

4.7 In addition to types of tourism included, studies also differ by region covered. As well as UK and Scottish-wide studies, there have been several regional studies, although these are limited to the Highlands and Islands (George Street Research and Jones Economics 2003; Masters et al 2001) and West Scotland (Warburton et al, 2001). From reviewing published sources, there appears to be a lack of research into the impacts of wildlife tourism in other regions in Scotland.

4.8 While no studies have previously estimated the contribution of the wildlife tourism sector to the Scottish economy, or the impact of wildlife tourism in Scotland, one study has undertaken similar research for the Highlands and Islands (George Street Research and Jones Economics 2003). This found that trips where wildlife was an activity (not only where it was a primary purpose of visit) accounted for £155.5m in spending, of which £84.5m was judged to be additional spending because of wildlife tourism. This additional spending led to an estimate of employment generated of 2,276 full-time equivalent ( FTE) jobs. Previously, another study (Masters et al 1998) had estimated that £44.8 million was spent by marine wildlife tourists alone in the Highlands and Islands region, supporting 2,771 FTE jobs. There is some overestimation inherent in this study, which (a) takes no account of additionality or displacement, and (b) adds downstream expenditure to direct expenditure and then applies employment multipliers (which include downstream employment) to the sum. Adjusting for these by excluding Masters et al's downstream expenditure would give an employment multiplier of 2,084 FTE jobs. Taking George Street Research and Jones Economics' ratio of additional to total expenditure would reduce this to 1,132 FTE jobs.

4.9 At the national level, one study exists (Rowan Tree Consulting 2008) that puts the revenue of businesses that are members of Wild Scotland at £9m, employing 496 FTE employees, but this both excludes wildlife businesses that are not members of that organisation and does not include spending outside the wildlife businesses.