Ecotourism on the Moray Firth

‘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 2,700 full-time jobs’ (Jim Mather, former Scottish Minister for enterprise, energy and tourism (2007–2011)).

The economic impact of marine and coastal wildlife tourism in Scotland is significant and growing. Visitors who make their trip primarily to view wildlife at the coast or in the marine environment spend £163 million per year (around 50% of the total wildlife expenditure), generate economic impacts of nearly £40 million. Many of these trips occur in May and June. Studies have found visitors tend to visit wildlife visitor centres more often than other groups and are more likely to visit Northern parts of Scotland, with 43% of nights by coastal wildlife tourists spent in the Highlands and Islands.

Marine wildlife tourism is also prominent in the Highlands as well as in the southwest of Scotland including Glasgow, Ayrshire, Arran, Dumfries & Galloway. Dolphin watching was given as a significant reason to visit the east coast area for 52,200 overnight visitors, and 17,100 of these deem viewing dolphins was the main reason for their trip. The conservation of this species is therefore of particular importance to the local economy of the wider Moray Firth area. Coastal and marine wildlife as a tourism sector has seen continued visitor interest and growth and is likely to continue to do so, possibly due to changes in public attitudes, increased media coverage of coastal wildlife and a lesser interest in long-haul holiday destinations, benefiting a number of coastal communities.

Photo: pauljennywilson via Flickr