Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewable Energy in Scottish Waters: Socio - Economic Assesment

The study reported here provides a high level socio-economic appraisal of the potential costs and benefits to activities that may arise as a result of offshore wind, wave or tidal development within the Draft Plan Options as part of possible future Scotti

B13. Tourism (inc. Ecotourism, Archaeological Heritage)

B13.1 Overview

The tourism sector has been defined as 'a stay of one or more nights away from home for holidays, visits to friends or relatives, business/conference trips or any other purposes excluding activities such as boarding education or semi-permanent employment' (VisitScotland[ 21] ). In this assessment, day trips have also been included. Marine and coastal tourism can be defined as any recreational activity that makes use of the marine environment and intertidal coastal zones (Benfield and McConnell, 2007). This can include a range of activities such as walking along the sea-front to sea-side based horse riding. Both non-motorised (walking/picnicking) and motorised (boat-based tourism e.g. wildlife viewing) activities are also considered here. Benefits derived from the wild landscape may also be considered under tourism, indeed McMorran et al (2006) state that the most appropriate valuations of the natural landscape come from tourist expenditure. Tourist activities are also considered to influence other industries, such as accommodation, travel, food and beverage, etc.

It is recognised that the values presented in this section may comprise some water sports and/or recreational boating activity, which are covered separately in Sections B15 and B11 respectively. Where any potential impact on tourism has been identified within a region, the degree to which any overlap in activities/values may have occurred is specifically addressed and estimates of the proportion attributable to these activities are made where possible. Figure B13 shows an overview of tourist activity in relation to Draft Plan Option areas. Information sources used in the assessment are listed in Table B13.1.

Table B13.1 Information Sources


Information Available




Leisure and recreation statistics


Baxter et al (2011)


Economic impact of offshore wind farms


GCal Uni (2009)


Visitor numbers by region

- 2010

Visit Scotland


The tourism prospectus: investing for growth


Visit Scotland


Expenditure by coastal and marine wildlife visitors in Scotland.


Bournemouth University (2010)


Value of whale watching in Scotland


O'Connor et al. (2009)


Value of conserving whales: impacts of cetacean-related tourism on the economy of rural West Scotland


Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems Journal


Scotland's Coastal and Maritime Managed Heritage Assets; Visitor Numbers and Revenue


Historic Scotland; Visit Scotland


Fishing tourism research


Visit Scotland


Value to economy of tourism

No date


Towards a Strategy for Scotland's Marine Historic Environment


Historic Scotland

B13.2 Future Trends

Tourism within Scotland is supported by VisitScotland, whose aim is to "maximise the economic benefits of tourism to Scotland". VisitScotland's strategy has five objectives including:

  • Maximise the sustainable economic benefit of tourism in Scotland;
  • Inspire through information provision;
  • Deliver quality assurance;
  • Work in partnership; and
  • Establish Scotland as perfect stage for events.

The organisation is currently running a new corporate campaign entitled "The Winning Years". This builds on a series of eight events over the years 2012-2014, with each year having a particular theme as follows:

  • 2012 - Year of Creative Scotland;
  • 2013 - Year of Natural Scotland; and
  • 2014 - Year of Homecoming Scotland.

The aims of the campaign are to encourage enthusiasm, support and investment in tourism in Scotland, and to ensure that tourism businesses benefit from the opportunities available. Earlier estimates have indicated that visitor numbers to Scotland are forecast to grow at an average of 2.3% per annum from 2005 to 2015 ( RPA and Cambridge Econometrics, 2008), with a 50% increase in gross tourism revenue by 2015 (from 2005) (Scottish Executive, 2006a). However, it is likely that any major developments in tourism in the short term will be affected by this campaign, and also current economic conditions. Indeed, in 2010, overnight visitors to Scotland from the United Kingdom made 12.4 million trips and spent a total of over £2.6 billion (VisitScotland, 2011). These figures represented a decline of 1% in the number of trips and a 4% decrease in expenditure when compared with 2009 data (VisitScotland, 2011). Interestingly, for the same year, international tourism showed a decline in trips of 8% but a growth in expenditure of 6% (VisitScotland, 2011). Therefore, short term tourism trends are uncertain.

Considering trends in particular areas of tourism, the Scottish Recreation Survey has shown that since 2004, there has been an increase in the number of shorter duration visits made closer to home ( TNS, 2011). In addition, the percentage of visits taken on foot grew from 50% to 64% in 2008 ( TNS, 2010). If these trends are to continue, then it is likely that in the future more tourism will occur close to centres of population and at sites which are easily accessible. Indeed, Brown et al (2010) note that the most likely trend in future outdoor recreation is that there will be a greater range of activities available, but these will be concentrated in a smaller number of locations, dependent amongst other factors on their accessibility. This suggests that areas which are hotspots for particular activities ( e.g. surfing) will be the ones which flourish.

However, it should be noted that external factors, such as global climate change may also impact tourism. For example, climate change may affect the distribution and range of cetacean species and thus wildlife watching tourism in Scotland (Lambert et al, 2011). However as such tourism develops, it is important that proper guidelines and management are enforced, so that the growing trend in recreational activities involving the marine and coastal environment does not compromise or destroy the assets which attract so many visitors (Joint Marine Programme, 2004).

B13.3 Potential for Interaction

Table B13.2 shows potential interaction pathways between tourism activities and wind, wave and/or tidal arrays.

Explanation of column content:

Column 1: Describes the potential interaction between the activity and any renewable technology;

Column 2: Identifies the types of offshore renewable development (wind, wave or tidal) for which the interaction may arise;

Column 3: Identifies the potential socio-economic consequence associated with the interaction identified in Column 1;

Column 4: Indicates whether detailed assessment will or will not be required if activity is scoped in;

Column 5: Identifies how the socio-economic impact will be assessed.

Table B13.2 Potential for Interaction






Potential Interaction

Technology Relevance
(Wind, Wave, Tidal)

Potential Socio-economic Consequence

Scoped in (√) or Out (X) of Assessment

How the Economic Impact Will be Assessed

Impacts to landscape or seascape

Wind arrays

Reduction in tourism income and investment

- where Draft Plan Option areas are located within 10km (wind) or 5km (wave and tidal) of land.

Wind - For Draft Plan Option areas within 10km of the coast (or 13km in visually sensitive locations), the proportion of the region for which the arrays would be visible was estimated ('zone of influence'). Using published estimates of reductions in tourism expenditure arising indirectly from visual impacts of wind farms, the estimated loss of general tourism-related expenditure per region was calculated.

Consideration has also been given to the potential for development to deter tourism investment based on consultation.

See Section B13.4 for detailed methodology

Impacts to landscape or seascape

Manufacturing and O&M facilities, onshore substations

Reduction in tourism income and investment

X - the location of manufacturing, O&M facilities or onshore substations is currently unknown. It is unlikely that major manufacturing facilities will be located outside of major urban centres, but some local O&M facilities are likely to be developed.

Economic assessment not possible.

The potential for impact has been described qualitatively.

Disturbance from onshore/coastal infrastructure

Manufacturing and O&M facilities, onshore substations

Reduction in tourism income and investment

X - the location of manufacturing, O&M facilities or onshore substations is currently unknown. It is unlikely that major manufacturing facilities will be located outside of major urban centres, but some local O&M facilities are likely to be developed.

Economic assessment not possible.

The potential for impact has been described qualitatively.

Disturbance or injury to coastal or marine wildlife

All arrays, export cables

Reduction in income for ecotourism businesses

X - Although there is some uncertainty concerning actual environmental impacts, most of the species of interest to marine ecotourism such as cetaceans, seals and seabirds are protected under the EC Birds and Habitats Directives with a legal obligation to ensure that adverse effects on the integrity of designated sites are avoided. There are also wider provisions for the avoidance or minimisation of disturbance of protected species. Therefore, any potentially significant impacts to marine ecotourism species would be expected to be minimised through the application of mitigation measures as part of the licensing process. The consequential impacts to dependent ecotourism businesses are therefore considered to be negligible.

Economic assessment not required.

Disturbance or damage to heritage assets

All arrays, export cables

Reduction in visitor attraction income; reduction in wider tourism income

X - Heritage assets (both terrestrial and marine) may potentially be affected by offshore energy development within Draft Plan Option areas and associated cable routes. Significant direct impacts will be avoided through mitigation measures incorporated within licence conditions. Indirect impacts (such as the effect on the setting of heritage assets) are likely to be captured within the overall assessment of tourism impacts and therefore do not need to be assessed separately.

Economic assessment not required.

Creation of new visitor attraction

All arrays

Increase in tourism income

X - While there is some evidence that offshore energy developments can provide a visitor attraction, these benefits only tend to be realised when accompanied by investment in a visitor centre or local display boards. In the absence of information on the establishment of visitor centres, this benefit can only be described qualitatively.

Economic assessment not required.

B13.4 Scoping Methodology

B13.4.1 Impacts to Landscape or Seascape

Potential negative impacts on tourism may occur through visual effects on the landscape and seascape [22] deterring visitors to an area or deterring tourism investment.

Offshore Wind:

For the purpose of this assessment, this potential negative effect was considered to only be likely to occur for Draft Plan Option areas which were located within 13km of the coastline. Using this assumption:

  • Draft Plan Option areas > 13km from the coast were scoped out of the assessment; and
  • Draft Plan Option areas < 13km from the coast were considered to require a quantitative assessment.

The output of this scoping exercise is presented in Appendix C13.

Wave and Tidal:

The height of many wave and tidal devices above sea level (often less than 10m), makes them more analogous to fish farms, which tourists perceive as being of less impact visually than wind farms (Royal Haskoning, 2010; Riddington et al. 2008). Therefore, the effects of impacts to landscape and seascape on tourism would generally be expected to be less than for wind farms. There is no current evidence relating to the visual impacts of wave or tidal devices on tourism volume and value. As such, for the purposes of this assessment it was assumed that there would be no effect on visitor numbers or revenue.

B13.5 Assessment Methodology

The assessment methodology presented in this section takes account of the existing evidence relating to the impacts of wind farms on tourism. A brief overview of this evidence is given below.

Impacts on tourism from visual effects may arise due to a visitor's perceived reduction in the attractiveness of 'quality' of the landscape ( i.e. the important feature attracting tourists) due to the presence of an offshore wind farm, which may potentially result in reduced prices for tourism services and/or reduced tourism performance (visitor volumes and value/expenditure).

B13.5.1 Potential Impacts on Visitors to an Area/Return Visits

Numerous studies have assessed the attitude and reactions of visitors to wind farms (mainly onshore) in the UK, Europe and reviews of these studies are provided by Riddington et al. (2008), The Tourism Company (2012) and Aitchison (2012). In general, studies show that the majority of visitors would not be deterred from visiting or returning to an area by the presence or expansion of onshore wind farms (75-99% would not be deterred, results from multiple studies cited in The Tourism Company, 2012 and Aitchison, 2012). The Tourism Company (2012) concluded that:

"where the studies have sought to draw conclusions they tend broadly to suggest that the overall impact of wind energy on tourism as a whole is not large but that there are issues of visual impact which affect some visitors and therefore care should be taken in future over the siting of wind turbines, particularly in sensitive and attractive landscapes".

General observations from these studies included (The Tourism Company, 2012):

  • Only a minority of tourists appear to be negative about wind turbines and believe that they spoil the landscape. However, this is a significant minority;
  • In general, tourists prefer to see wind farms in the distance and preferably off-shore;
  • Wind turbines are not seen as negatively as some other structures in the countryside, notably pylons; and
  • Evidence is mixed on the proportion of tourists who may choose to stay away from areas with wind turbines in future. While this may be a relatively small minority it could be quite damaging to markets in certain locations.

There is less evidence relating specifically to the potential impacts of offshore wind farms on tourism. A study by Blades Lilley et al. (2010) in Delaware, USA showed that 74% of tourists reported they would visit the same beach if a wind farm existed 10km from shore, while 26% said they would switch beaches ( i.e. avoid that beach) (it should be noted that the number of tourists who would visit the same beach if a wind farm existed 0.9 miles offshore was 55% and 45% stated they would switch beaches or not go to a Delaware beach at all). The level of 'avoidance' of an offshore wind farm 10km offshore was smaller than the percentage of tourists who would be attracted to a beach with offshore wind turbines (66%) and the proportion stating they would pay to take a boat tour of the wind farm (44%). Studies in Denmark have suggested that people who use the coastal zone more frequently ( i.e. tourists or residents living close by) associate higher visual disamenities with offshore wind farms than people who have 'weaker' connections to coastal areas (Ladenburg, 2010). Hence, potential reductions in capital costs from locating OWFs closer to shore may be outweighed by reductions in visual amenity benefits in coastal areas with high recreational activity - in these areas the optimal location of OWFs may be further offshore compared to coastal areas with lower recreational activity (Ladenburg & Dubgaard, 2009; Ladenburg, 2010).

B13.5.2 Impacts on Tourism Performance

There is very little actual evidence relating to the impacts of wind farms on tourism performance ( i.e. tourism volume and value). In Denmark, Kuehn (2003) found neither a decrease in the community's tourism levels nor any reduction in the price of summer house rentals one year following construction of the Horn Rev offshore wind farm (summarised in Blades Lilley et al. 2010). In the UK, a public attitude survey towards the operational North Hoyle OWF in North Wales reported that two thirds of residents (67%) stated the presence of the OWF had no effect on the number of people visiting or using the area, with people more likely to state there had been an increase rather than a decrease in numbers (11% stated increase compared with 4% who stated decrease). 82% of visitors did not see any effect on visitor numbers [23] . From reviewing the literature The Tourism Company (2012) concluded that "The negative effect on tourism performance where wind farms have already been established may not be as great as some people fear. However, far too little firm longitudinal evidence on this is available."

Riddington et al (2008) estimated the impacts of onshore wind farm development on tourism expenditure in Scotland. The estimated potential reductions in general expenditure of tourists in four case study areas (Caithness and Sutherland; Stirling, Perth and Kinross; The Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway) ranged from 1.3% to 1.72%. In the absence of a comparable study for offshore wind development, the findings from this onshore study have been used to estimate impacts on tourism expenditure associated with offshore wind farms, although it is recognised that the findings from onshore studies may not be perfectly transferable.

Overall, research from the UK has demonstrated that wind farms are very unlikely to have any adverse impact on tourist numbers (volume), tourist expenditure (value) or tourism experience (satisfaction) (Riddington et al., 2008; Aitchison, 2004). Moreover, to date, there is no evidence to demonstrate that any wind farm development in the UK or overseas has resulted in any adverse impact on tourism (Aitchison, 2012).

B13.5.3 Impacts on Tourism Investment

There is the potential for offshore wind farm development to adversely affect investment in new resort development in circumstances, where such development is promoted on the basis of a rural location and uncluttered seascapes, for example, golfing or water sports resorts. The Tourism Company (2012) stated that while few tourism enterprises are opposed to wind energy generation in principle, many have concerns about the future effect of wind turbines on their business. However, evidence relating to impacts from offshore wind farms specifically on visitors to coastal/links courses are unknown, as are the impacts on future golf course development in such areas.

B13.5.4 Landscape/Seascape Impacts and Disturbance from Onshore O&M Facilities and Substations

The location of onshore operations and maintenance ( O&M) facilities and onshore substations is not known. Potential impacts of such facilities have therefore been described qualitatively.

B13.5.5 Quantitative Assessment Methodology of Landscape/Seascape Impacts Arising from Offshore Wind Arrays

The methodology below uses regional tourism expenditure values in 2009 sourced from VisitScotand and reported in ABPmer and RPA (2012). These values have been adjusted for GDP to provide baseline regional tourism expenditure values for 2012. For the purposes of this assessment, it has been assumed that tourism levels will remain constant in real terms over the period assessed ( i.e. there will be no growth in tourism volume and value).

The potential impact on tourism expenditure within each region between 2023 (estimated start date of cost impact due to array construction) and 2035 was then calculated as follows:

  • The total tourism spend (£million) in 2009 within the most relevant VisitScotland regions(s) were identified within the SORERs scoped into the assessment;
  • Within these regions, the Zone of Influence ( ZOI; the zone within which landscape and visual impacts arising from the array may result in a reduction in visitor numbers and hence expenditure) was calculated by measuring the land area which fell within the buffer zone around each wind Draft Plan Option area.
  • For the central scenario, the ZOI was calculated as the area of land which fell within a 10km buffer around each wind Draft Plan Option area;
  • For the high scenario, the size of the buffer zone used to calculate the ZOI was determined by the Capacity Index of the coastline adjacent to the wind Draft Plan Option Area. The Capacity Index of a seascape indicates the ability of a seascape to absorb or accommodate development without a fundamental change in character. Where the adjacent coastline had a Capacity Index of 1-2 (a relatively high capacity to accommodate development without affecting character), the ZOI was calculated as the area of land which fell within a 10km buffer. Where the adjacent coastline had a Capacity Index of 3-5 (indicating a lower capacity to accommodate development), the ZOI was calculated as the area of land which fell within a 13km buffer. The increase in buffer distance in these instances was designed to increase the land area over which tourism impacts were calculated, to represent a greater landscape and visual impact;
  • The proportion of the VisitScotland regional area within the ZOI was then calculated as:

land area within the ZOI (km 2) / total land area within the VisitScotland region (km 2)

  • The value of tourism expenditure within the ZOI was then calculated as:
  • Total VisitScotland regional value (£millions) x proportion of VisitScotland area within the ZOI (%); and
  • From the available evidence base, the 'worst case' (high) scenario reduction in tourism spending due to negative impacts was assumed to be 1.72% and the moderate scenario reduction was assumed to be 1.30% (both values based on Riddington et al. 2008). As a precautionary approach it was assumed that these reductions were not negated by any positive impacts. The estimated loss of general tourism-related expenditure was then calculated as:
  • Value of tourism expenditure within the ZOI x 0.0172 (high scenario)
  • Value of tourism expenditure within the ZOI x 0.013 (moderate scenario).


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