Wildlife Tourism is growing. The authentic, unspoiled wildlife experience in Scotland has always been a powerful draw for visitors.
Now, thanks to the influence of new wildlife television shows like the BBC’s Springwatch, increasing environmental awareness and the new staycationing trend, the number of people coming to Scotland primarily to view and enjoy wildlife continues to rise.
This is great news for Scottish wildlife tourism businesses – yet they should avoid becoming complacent. The increasing numbers of visitors will only be sustained over time if businesses understand their market and continue to re-invent themselves and develop new products.
The big picture
1.12 million trips are made each year to or within Scotland for the primary purpose of viewing wildlife. Domestic (UK) visitors account for over half of these trips and 75 per cent of the £276 million spend.
A key wildlife visitor group is middle-aged, empty-nest, professional and middle-class couples who are looking for new interests.
May and June together account for half of all wildlife tourism visits through the year.
Wildlife tourism is concentrated in the Highlands and Islands, with half of Scotland’s wildlife trips and £124 million in spending by wildlife visitors. The West Coast and Islands, Loch Lomond & Trossachs is second, with 23 per cent of trips and £65 million spend.
Things you should know
Most wildlife day visitors are from Scotland; overnight visitors are spread throughout the UK, but one fifth are still Scottish. It pays to market to the people on your doorstep.
Wildlife visitors stay in a variety of accommodation types including hotels, guest houses and B&Bs. Accommodation providers can collaborate with wildlife tourism businesses to build their customer base.
Only around one in ten overnight wildlife visitors and one in five wildlife day visitors travel alone. Most groups are families, so businesses could target them with packages such as price reductions for children or preferential rates for groups of 4 people plus.
Non wildlife visitors make up two thirds of the total expenditure at wildlife attractions, so it is important to target these ‘casual’ visitors and not just the enthusiasts.
Online bookings are on the rise in this sector so businesses must have a good website.
Opportunities for businesses
Tourism businesses should promote the wide range of readily viewed iconic wildlife species in Scotland, such as dolphins and birds of prey, to tap into the growing interest in the sector.
Most wildlife visitors combine their wildlife experience with other activities, such as walking, cycling, and sightseeing, so activity providers should cross-promote with wildlife attractions.
Many wildlife watchers prefer a ‘DIY’ method of tourism where they seek out wildlife themselves. Operators can cater to this market by providing information and creating independent itineraries for them.
Businesses can mitigate the weaknesses of the weather and midges by providing warm and dry facilities at the end of the day and wet weather activities.
Wild Scotland is an organisation successfully working to raise the profile of the wildlife sector in Scotland.
If you remember one thing
Both wildlife enthusiasts and ‘casual’ wildlife visitors will be looking for other activities and places of interest on their trip. Tourism businesses can collaborate to create packages that will offer them a complete experience.
- Source - ‘The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland’ by International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research at Bournemouth University, Scottish Government Social Research 2010