WILDLIFE tourism plays a vital part in Scotland’s rural economy, pulling in millions of pounds and also creating many hundreds of job opportunities.
These findings were contained in a Scottish Government report – The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland – published on June 16. The report found that wildlife tourism annually brings in a net economic impact of £65 million to Scotland’s economy and creates the equivalent of 2760 full-time jobs.
The report also found that 1.12 million trips were made every year to or within Scotland with the main aim of viewing wildlife. This form of tourism appealed greatly to UK-based visitors and Scots themselves, accounting for 56 per cent of trips. And it was these UK visitors who generated 75 per cent of the income.
Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Tourism is vital to Scotland’s economic recovery. As one of Europe’s leading year-round wildlife destinations with a world-famous reputation for natural heritage, Scotland has a great deal to offer. Whether watching whales from a boat in the Minch, walking in the glens or viewing puffins and seals around Inchcolm Island, visitors clearly value Scotland’s fascinating wildlife.
“Wildlife tourism is becoming increasingly popular, generating significant benefits for the economy and coastal communities. With this in mind, we need to ensure that we safeguard our marine environment for the future. Scotland’s Marine Act offers enhanced protection for wildlife and will help deliver economic growth for key business sectors.
“Marine planning will ensure an appropriate balance between development, protection and recreation. Marine Protected Areas will help us safeguard the marine environment, including iconic species and habitats that tourists come to see.”
Tourism minister Jim Mather said: “This research confirms that wildlife tourism in particular is a growing sector – generating a net economic impact of around £65 million for our economy. Viewing wildlife is the main driver behind over one million trips to Scotland every year – and over half of those are made by UK tourists. This helps to support over 2700 full-time jobs.
“Our stunning seas and coasts support a wealth of wildlife and play a key role in attracting visitors at home and abroad. The public’s increasing awareness and interest in our marine environment is being translated into tangible economic benefits, and we will ensure that this isn’t at a cost to our natural environment.
“I congratulate everyone involved in delivering such an impressive achievement.”
Lloyd Austin, head of conservation policy at RSPB Scotland, said: “We warmly welcome the publication of this new research, which underlines the economic value of wildlife tourism in addition to its intrinsic value.
“Over 50 years since their return we have shown ospreys to hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Loch Garten reserve. This demonstrates why wildlife conservation and enhancement should be a core objective of government policy, not just for its own sake but as a contribution to Scotland’s well-being and future prosperity.
“It also shows the importance of ensuring that damage to our most important and precious natural assets is not permitted, but avoided at any cost.”
Susan Davies, director policy and advice at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “It’s very heartening, particularly in the International Year of Biodiversity, that the economic benefits of wildlife and scenery are being more widely recognised. This underlines the importance of our work with the tourism sector to ensure developments and activities are sustainable. It is equally important to ensure that people have ample opportunity and accessible information to help them enjoy Scotland’s nature.”