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The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland



Figure 20: Trends in Turnover and Visitor Numbers


6.1 This research shows that wildlife tourism has been growing even in a period of recession in the UK economy. The postal survey shows that, as a greater proportion of wildlife tourists had visited Scotland in more recent years than had non-wildlife tourists, that wildlife tourism's share of total tourism in Scotland appears to be growing.

6.2 Of those wildlife tourism businesses who responded to the operator survey, the majority reported that turnover and visitor numbers had increased in the recent past. 52% reported higher turnover in the last financial year for which they had data compared to the previous year, and 57% reported higher visitor numbers this year (2009) compared with the previous year. Relatively few reported lower figures, 15% for turnover and 14% for visitor numbers (Figure 20).

6.3 Meanwhile, 88% of businesses expect that, in real terms, wildlife tourism in Scotland will either increase or increase significantly in the future (Figure 21). The majority also expect increases in their own wildlife tourism turnover and profit, but respondents were less positive about their expectations of the number of staff that they will employ for wildlife tourism activities, and of the number of wildlife tourism products that they will offer in the future, although the answers to these questions did not include any expectations of reductions in staff numbers or products.

6.4 The reasons for industry optimism were further explored in other aspects of research. In the industry workshop there was almost unanimous agreement that the demand for wildlife tourism experience is increasing and that this is coupled with more operators offering wildlife tourism experiences and more events being held by NGOs. In terms of market segments, experienced wildlife enthusiasts are increasing alongside the casual and general interest wildlife watchers. Some specialist operators, however, have noticed a definite shift from specialist wildlife viewing to a more general interest and had altered their product portfolio accordingly; although the location of businesses makes a difference: "businesses that are not on the generic nature trail will often only attract people with a keen interest in wildlife".

6.5 There was also evidence of an 'activity plus wildlife' market, i.e. "mountain bikers who stop to look at wildlife", "events that bring visitors" and "dedicated photographers are a growing market who used to be only affluent middle-aged males but now include one and all who come on photographic tours".

Figure 21: Perceptions of Future Prospects for Wildlife Tourism

Figure 21: Perceptions of Future Prospects for Wildlife Tourism

6.6 The 'Springwatch factor' was frequently mentioned by wildlife tourists and operators alike. This refers to the influence of wildlife television programmes such as Springwatch, and is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the on-site survey, 32% of all visitors claimed that a television or radio programme prompted them to take their trip to a wildlife site, with Springwatch and Autumnwatch being programmes that prompted visits by 15% of visitors, and Coast prompting 14% of visits. Wildlife visitors were no more likely than others to have visited because of a programme, possibly because their motivation for making their visit was stronger and formed earlier, and because the Springwatch factor is just as likely to prompt a tourist to make an incidental trip to a wildlife site while on a longer trip as it is to prompt a wildlife tourist to take a whole trip for the primary purpose of seeing wildlife. 'Post-Springwatchers' are identified by many operators as individuals whose interest in wildlife has been kindled, or re-kindled, by the media, and in particular popular television wildlife programmes.

6.7 A further trend has also seen a move towards the popular and iconic species, as both overseas visitors and general visitors with a casual or passing interest in wildlife identify these species but not less well known ones.

6.8 Finally there is a definite trend towards more online bookings which underlines the importance of a good website. Last minutes bookings are also increasingly prevalent but these are problematic as visitors often expect a discount with late bookings, making both financial management and trip planning difficult .