Sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy: social and economic impact assessment scoping report

Sets out the methodology and scenarios for scoping and undertaking a socio-economic impact assessment.

A.15. Tourism

A.15.1 Sector Definition

This sector relates to tourism which has been defined by Visit Scotland 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'. 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.

Other marine recreational activities, undertaken in or on the sea such as recreational boating and marine water sport activities ( e.g. surfing, SCUBA diving, sea angling etc.) are covered separately in Appendices A.12 and A.17 respectively, as the interactions and issues in relation to offshore wind developments are often distinctly different.

A.15.2 Overview of Activity

In 2016, 14.45 million tourism trips [18] were undertaken in Scotland (Visit Scotland, 2017a). In 2015, full time equivalent employment in the Scottish sustainable tourism [19] sector was 217,200 and in 2014 the GVA of the sustainable tourism sector was £3,675 million (Visit Scotland, 2017b). It is not possible to disaggregate this data to establish the number of tourism trips and the economic value which can be attributed to coastal and marine tourism. However, the Scottish Marine Recreation and Tourism Survey ( SMRTS) (Land Use Consultants ( LUC), 2016) collated information on recreation and tourism activities undertaken at sea or around the Scottish coast in 2015, including 'general marine and coastal tourism' [20] , 'general marine and coastal recreation' [21] and 'walking at the coast (over 2 miles)' [22] .

Table A.15.1 shows the total number of survey respondents (out of a total of 2170 individuals and representatives of clubs or similar organisations that completed the survey) who participated in these activities in 2015, the key areas of concentrated activity and an estimate of the total expenditure from each activity.

Table A.15.1 Participation in marine water sports activities around Scotland in 2015


Number of Respondents Taking Part

Key Areas of Concentrated Activity

Activity Specific Estimate of Trip Based Spending (£)

General marine and coastal recreation


Concentrations of activity along the east coast, particularly the Firth of Forth and Fife coastline and close to Aberdeen. Other concentrations include the Inner Firth of Clyde and the Ayrshire coastline and specific locations throughout Argyll and the Highlands, including Oban, Tobermory, Ullapool and Iona.


Walking at the coast (over 2 miles)


Concentrations of activity visible along the Lothian and Fife coastlines, around Aberdeen and along the coast of the Moray Firth. Activity on the west coast is more fragments, reflecting the character of the coastline, though concentrations can be seen in Ayrshire (including Cumbrae and Arran), around Oban, Iona, Arisaig and the far north west around Sandwood Bay.


General marine and coastal tourism


This activity occurred along much of the mainland coastline with concentrations within the Firth of Clyde, Argyll, Loch Linne and the Great Glen, Moray Firth, Firth of Forth and east coast


* This activity will also include vessels which are covered under marine water sports in Appendix A.17.

Source: LUC, 2016

The SMRTS estimated that the annual expenditure on marine recreation and tourism activities in Scotland (including but not limited to the activities listed in Table A.15.1) was worth £3.7 billion to the Scottish economy (although acknowledged this is likely to be an overestimate). Around £2.4 billion of this is associated with general marine recreation and tourism while around £1.3 billion is associated with more specialist activities including wildlife watching (categorised as tourism for this assessment), sailing, kayaking, surfing and angling (covered under Water sports in Appendix A.17).

In 2010, the net economic impact of marine wildlife tourism in Scotland was estimated to be £15 million, with 633 additional FTE jobs and the economic impact of coastal wildlife tourism was estimated to be £24 million with 995 additional FTE jobs (International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research and Bournemouth University, 2010). Visit Scotland (2017c) reported that 494,000 domestic visits to Scotland included bird or wildlife watching, generating a total of £54 million in expenditure (year not stated, but data source cited from 2015). No information was available regarding the proportion of visits or expenditure that related specifically to coastal or marine wildlife watching trips.

With regard to future trends, Deloitte and Oxford Economics (2010) presented forecasts for the future contribution of the Visitor Economy to the UK and constituent nations. The study highlighted that the forecasts for each nation are driven by the UK level trends, however, the impact of these trends will differ depending on the nation. For Scotland, the study forecast that the Visitor Economy will contribute £8.5 billion in value added in 2020, equating to 5.1% of total Scottish GDP (up from 4.9% in 2009). It is projected that in 2020 the Visitor Economy will directly support 157,000 jobs, representing 5.7% of Scottish total employment ( AECOM and ABPmer, 2015).

Figure A.15.1 shows the concentration of general marine and coastal tourism around the Scottish coast (representing activities such as scenic drives or bus tours). Information sources that can be used in the assessment are listed in Table A.15.2.

Figure A.15.1 General Marine and Coastal Tourism activity in Scotland
Figure A.15.1 General Marine and Coastal Tourism activity in Scotland

Table A.15.2 Information sources for the tourism sector

Data Available Information Source
Economic impact of wind farms Riddington et al. 2008
Tourism statistics (Scotland) Visit Scotland research and statistics website:
Visitor volume and value (Scotland) Visit Scotland, 2017
Tourism employment (Scotland) Visit Scotland, 2016
Scottish marine recreation and tourism (Scotland) Scottish marine recreation and tourism survey 2015
Tourism Development Framework Visit Scotland, 2013
Tourism Scotland 2020 - Tourism industry strategy Highlands and Islands Enterprise, 2012

A.15.3 Potential Interactions with Offshore Wind

Table A.15.3 shows potential interaction pathways between tourism and offshore wind arrays and export cables. Based on the approach to scoping described in Section 2 in the main report, the table also records whether the interaction:

  • Is not likely to result in a significant socio-economic impact on the sector; or
  • Is likely to result in a significant socio-economic impact on the sector and hence will require a detailed assessment.

The rationale underlying this expert judgement is provided in the table. Where it is not currently possible to make a judgement regarding the likelihood of a significant socio-economic impact due to insufficient information (for example, in relation to the extent of overlap between a sector activity and the DPO Areas) the table indicates that scoping will be required to be undertaken once sufficient information becomes available. Furthermore, as described in the main report, there is currently no information regarding the likely location of export cable routes/corridors and as such, it is not possible to undertake a meaningful assessment of the potential for any sector activity/export cable interaction to give rise to significant socio-economic effects. Rather, the potential for any interaction will be identified in Regional Locational Guidance.

The impact of construction and operation of OWFs on seascapes and landscapes is assessed during EIAs via a seascape and landscape visual impact assessment ( SLVIA). The significance of any impact relates to a range of factors including the sensitivity of the seascapes and landscapes in the area, the size and arrangement of turbines in the arrays and the distance of the arrays offshore (and hence from receptors). The significance of any seascape and landscape visual impacts ( SLVI) from arrays within DPOs (once available) will need to be assessed at project level via the EIA process and it is anticipated there is scope to minimise any visual impacts through marine spatial planning.

Two recent EIAs, which assessed the visual impact on seascapes and landscapes in the vicinity of proposed floating offshore wind turbines, located between 13 km and 50 km offshore concluded that there would be no significant visual impacts (Atkins, 2016; Statoil, 2015). However, a third EIA for a proposed floating OWF 6 km offshore did conclude that there would be a significant impact in one area due to the very high sensitivity of the coastline, the high proportion of the array within the zone of theoretical visibility ( ZTV) and due to the minimum distance between the development and coast being only 6 km at one location (Aquatera et al, 2016).

It can be noted that in a consultation response to the Environmental Scoping Opinion related to the SLVIA for the proposed Kincardine OWF (to be located 13 km offshore), Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) stated that " It is insufficient to conclude prior to assessment that a distance of 12.8 km offshore will result in a minimal [visual] impact. Albeit outside of the study area for [the Kincardine] EIA, assessors should be aware of two existing Beatrice Demonstrator Turbines ( BDT), 151 m to blade tip located on average 25 km offshore from Caithness. Both the BDT and five offshore platforms (that rise to a height of 106 m) are visible from many points along the east coast."

Regardless of the outcomes of the project level SLVIAs, in general, because tourism depends on an attractive environment, attitudes towards OWFs may include fears that offshore arrays and/or large turbines may affect the leisure zone and subsequent recreational value and demand for tourism in an area ( i.e. have impacts on the landscape; German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, 2013). Whilst the initial scoping assessment above recommends that the potential for socio-economic impacts on tourism are considered at project level, the following section provides a brief summary of existing evidence relating to the attitude and perception of OWFs and of any subsequent indirect effects on tourism, to help inform development of the assessment methodology if required once DPO areas are available.

Numerous studies have assessed the attitude and reactions of visitors to wind farms in the UK and Europe and reviews of these studies are provided by Riddington et al. (2008), The Tourism Company (2012), Aitchison (2012) (all mainly onshore wind farms) and the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation (2013). The Tourism Company (2012) concluded that the evidence is mixed on the proportion of tourists who may choose to stay away from areas with wind turbines in the future and while it may be a relatively small minority of visitors who do, it could potentially be quite damaging to markets in certain locations. Examples of studies which have assessed the attitudes and perception specifically to offshore arrays include:

  • Germany - Hilliweg and Kull (2005) reported that 9% of interview respondents would be disturbed by offshore wind farms regardless of their location, while over 50% of the respondents would not be disturbed even if the OWF was visible (summarised in German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, 2013);
  • Denmark – a DEA (2006) study of attitudes to Nysted OWF and Horns Rev OWF (located 10 km and 14-20 km offshore respectively) indicated that whilst local and national populations were generally positive towards windfarms there was a significant willingness to pay to locate future OWFs at distances offshore where visual effects on the coastal landscape are reduced. 40% of the respondents stated they would prefer windfarms to be moved out of sight ( DEA, 2006 summarised in German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation, 2013);
  • Denmark - studies 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);
  • The Netherlands - a study reported that wind turbines off the Dutch coast will have minimal if any effects on tourism, estimating a reduction in tourism numbers of between 0% to 10% if the turbines are visible on the horizon and that tourists who stay away will spend their time in other tourist areas (a Decisio report, cited unseen [23] ). This report contradicted an earlier study which estimated that 17% to 20% of tourists would stay away and 6,000 jobs would be lost;
  • North Carolina, USA - a study which surveyed people who rented vacation properties on the coast found that whilst there was a lot of support for wind energy, if offshore turbines were located 5 miles (8 km) offshore, most respondents stated they would choose a different vacation destination, which the authors estimated could have an economic impact of $31 million over 20 years. However, if the turbines were built over 8 miles (12.9 km) offshore, the visual impacts would diminish substantially for many of the respondents, such that the turbines would not be likely to have a negative impact on coastal vacation property markets (Lutzeyer et al, 2017);
  • Delaware, USA - Blades Lilley et al. (2010) found that 74% of tourists reported they would visit the same beach if a wind farm existed 10 km from shore, while 26% said they would avoid that beach. It was noted that the level of 'avoidance' of a beach with a windfarm 10 km 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%).

Despite the above studies on attitudes towards OWFs, there is very little actual evidence relating to the impacts of wind farms on tourism performance ( i.e. tourism volume and value further to the construction and operation of OWFs). 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 [24] . 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." Overall, research from the UK has demonstrated that (mainly onshore) 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).

However, despite the lack of evidence to show that OWFs have an indirect negative impact on tourism, it is acknowledged that landscape and visual issues are often the most prominent reason for public objection to both land-based ( DTI, 2005) and offshore wind farms. A high profile example was the proposed Navitus Bay OWF which was proposed to be located a minimum of 14 km off an area of the south England coastline which was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty ( AONB) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The proposed OWF was refused a Development Consent Order ( DCO), including due to concerns regarding a potential significant impact on local tourism arising from the visual impacts of the array [25] . A further potential concern relates to the potential for OWFs to adversely affect investment in new resort development where such developments are 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.

Table A.15.3 Potential interaction pathways

Potential Interaction

Technology Aspect and Phase

Potential Socio-economic Consequences

Initial Scoping Assessment

Impacts to landscape or seascape – long term

Arrays (construction and operation)

Reduction in tourism income and investment (through visitors being deterred by the physical presence of an OWF)

There is the potential for significant impacts to landscapes, seascapes and viewpoints where offshore wind turbines are visible to receptors ( i.e. people) and hence the potential for subsequent indirect impacts on tourism if this leads to avoidance of the area ( i.e. arising from the perception that the recreational or visual amenity of an area is reduced).

The significance of any landscape and visual impacts of arrays will be assessed as part of the EIA process and will relate to numerous factors including the location of turbines, their visibility from shore and the sensitivity of the landscape and seascape to change. Any potentially significant impacts would be expected to be minimised through the application of mitigation measures as part of the licensing process ( e.g. minimising impacts to sensitive areas of coastline, use of marine spatial planning within DPO areas etc.). The location of DPO areas are not currently available.

Although various studies have indicated that some people may avoid visiting an area where land-based or offshore arrays are visible (see Section A.15.3 below), there is a lack of evidence that existing offshore windfarms (in the UK or globally), have had a negative impact on tourism numbers or expenditure through deterring visitors. Hence, it is considered unlikely that there will be any significant impact on tourism arising indirectly from any landscape and visual impacts associated with the offshore arrays.

However, as landscape and visual issues are often the most prominent reason for public objection to both land-based ( DTI, 2005) and offshore wind farms, it is suggested that the scoping assessment be completed once DPOs are defined.

Impacts to landscape or seascape – temporary

Export cables (construction in the intertidal/inshore area)

Perceived reduction on amenity value, temporary reduction in tourism income

Any potential significant impacts would only be expected in inshore areas/intertidal areas adjacent to where the export cables make landfall.

Export cable routes are uncertain. Constraints inshore of DPOs will be identified in the RLG. However, it can be noted that any potential impact will only occur during the construction phase (during cable laying) and hence will be temporary.

No detailed assessment possible.

Disturbance or injury to coastal or marine wildlife

Arrays (construction and operation)

Reduction in income for ecotourism businesses

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.

No detailed assessment required.

Disturbance or damage to heritage assets

Arrays and export cables (construction only)

Reduction in visitor attraction income; reduction in wider tourism income

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 captured within landscape and seascape impacts above.

No detailed assessment required.

A.15.4 Scoping Methodology

The proximity of DPOs to the coastline will be assessed, once DPO areas are available. To determine where detailed assessments of the interaction may be required when DPO area locations are available, the following scoping criteria are proposed:

  • Where more than 10% of a DPO is within 15 km of a seascape unit with a low 'Capacity Index' [26] , based on Scott et al. 2005, it will be scoped in for more detailed assessment;
  • However, where less than 10% of a DPO is within 15 km of a seascape unit with a low Capacity Index, it has been assumed that spatial planning within the DPO area can be used to avoid significant impacts.

A.15.5 Assessment Methodology

Where DPOs are scoped in for more detailed assessment, consideration will be given to the potential for offshore wind developments to affect relevant tourism receptors in adjacent coastal areas within 18 km of the DPO.

Where scoping indicates that a detailed impact assessment is required, the potential economic cost of the indirect interaction between offshore arrays and tourism may be estimated based on:

  • The area of land that falls within the 18 km buffer zone around the array (referred to as the Zone of Influence ( ZOI));
  • The potential value of lost tourism expenditure within the ZOI, calculated as:
    • Land area within the ZOI (km 2) / total land area within the relevant VisitScotland region ( i.e. the proportion of the VisitScotland region within the ZOI);
    • The total VisitScotland regional tourism value (tourism expenditure; £) x the proportion of the VisitScotland region within the ZOI;
    • The value of tourism expenditure within the ZOI x the indicative percentage reduction in tourism spend in the ZOI (1.3%; based on Riddington et al. 2008).

A.15.6 Data Limitations

As described above there is limited evidence relating to the impact of OWFs on local or regional tourism.


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