Scottish tourism businesses are being challenged to look at ways of tapping into the growing wildlife tourism market in Scotland ahead of 'The Year of Natural Scotland' in 2013.
Companies are being urged to take advantage of this business opportunity in a new wildlife tourism guide published by Tourism Intelligence Scotland (TIS), as part of its Opportunities for Growth series. The guide, produced in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and Wild Scotland, is available to businesses who register at www.tourism-intelligence.co.uk.
Launching the guide, Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism said: "Scotland has an abundant range of rich and unique wildlife and habitats - from ospreys to otters, and forests to farmland. We also have some of the most fantastic, world-class settings in which to enjoy wildlife.
"Over a million wildlife trips a year are already taken to or within Scotland, where people visit specifically to view our rich wildlife. In reality, however, the scope of wildlife tourism is much larger, with some 58% of all visitors to Scotland citing our scenery and landscapes as their top reason for choosing us as a holiday destination. There is therefore a fantastic opportunity to encourage visitors who are here for sightseeing, golfing, shopping, or any variety of activities, to enjoy wildlife as a part of their experience."
Audrey MacLennan, Senior Tourism Manager at Highlands and Islands Enterprise added: "The world-renowned scenery and extraordinary range of wildlife found across the Highlands and Islands continues to make a significant contribution to the success of tourism across Scotland. The Wildlife Tourism in Scotland guide gives practical advice to businesses and individuals in order to make the most of the products and services they have to offer - while also providing inspiration for our ambitious and innovative tourism operators."
Wildlife is already firmly established as one of Scotland's most popular outdoor activities and tourism currently generates £276 million a year for the Scottish economy. This is expected to grow further still thanks to a growing interest in sustainability and responsible tourism.
According to 'The Economic Impact of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland 2010' study by the Scottish Government, there are over 1.1 million wildlife trips a year to or within Scotland by visitors who are here mainly to enjoy wildlife.
The new guide provides key intelligence on the sector and offers advice on how businesses can ensure that wildlife enthusiasts - ranging from dedicated wildlife watchers to those enjoying wildlife as part of a mix of activities and attractions - have the best experience possible.
Ideas include accommodation providers looking at ways to attract more wildlife to their garden, offering guests access to maps, wildlife books, and identification sheets, keeping spare binoculars and waterproofs for guests to use, and putting information about local wildlife, nature reserves and trails on their websites.
The Wildlife Tourism in Scotland guide has been published by Tourism Intelligence Scotland, as part of its Opportunities for Growth series, aimed at helping businesses make the most of new and emerging opportunities in the sector.