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VisitScotland is hailing Sir David Attenborough’s latest hit series, BBC’s Wild Isles and highlighting how the tourism industry can capitalise on growing visitor interest in wildlife.
Following the airing of the first four episodes, online searches for the Cairngorms, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides have seen a large rise. And visits to VisitScotland.com pages featuring wildlife have seen an 80 per cent increase following the airing of Wild Isles episodes.
Wildlife has long been a draw for holidays in Scotland, but this latest spotlight means businesses have a fresh opportunity to offer experiences that allow visitors to enjoy our fauna responsibly, in a way that avoids disrupting these special species in their natural habitat.
In the past, Scotland has been ranked top in the UK for water wildlife experiences. YouGov* research commissioned by the national tourism organisation, as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, found that two thirds of UK adults thought Scotland is the best part of the UK for exploring rivers (60 per cent), opportunities to see dolphins and whales (34 per cent) and watching coastal wildlife (32 per cent).
There are businesses spread across Scotland that offer wildlife experiences and previous VisitScotland research has shown that day trips that include watching wildlife/ bird watching generated a collective spend of £54 million.
Tour company Wild Discovery, based in Aberdeenshire, took part in the filming of Wild Isles. Co-owner Rachael Iveson-Brown explained how the pandemic has resulted in an increase in visitors seeking holidays in nature and how using reputable businesses to safely enjoy Scotland’s wildlife mean it remains protected.
She said: “There has undoubtedly been a rise in the number of people enjoying the outdoors and realising that nature is not only a great mental healer but also fascinating and highly enjoyable.
“With the climate and biodiversity crisis at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds visitors want to experience wildlife but also do something about conserving it. Our ethos is “Travel with purpose” and it’s great that people can come and do just that with us.
“It’s extremely important that we protect our wildlife both directly - so we can actually watch and enjoy wildlife, but also intrinsically, a healthy ecosystem equals better pollination for our crops, improved soils, peatlands for sequestering carbon, substantial woodlands for absorbing water and reducing flooding. Functional ecosystems and all their wildlife are essential for us in every way.”
Wild Discovery are committed to engaging with responsible tourism even further by planting a native tree per person per experience booked, providing advice on how guests can travel sustainably, and welcoming a full spectrum of interests and abilities so everyone can enjoy their nature-based experience.
Rachel added: “Hopefully people watching Wild Isles will now realise that they can witness world-class wildlife here in our own country and we can’t take it for granted. One of the most uplifting experiences for us is showing people the likes of white-tailed eagles and orcas, red squirrels and displaying black grouse; from their TV screens to right there in front of them – Scottish wildlife is truly awesome.”
Perthshire based Beyond Adventure, which features ‘beaver safaris’, has also seen a boost in visitor desire to watch wildlife.
Managing Director Ross Dempster said: “Scottish wildlife has always played an integral part of every activity we deliver. In recent years we have noticed an increase in people wanting to join our activities, not necessarily to enjoy the canoeing or kayaking but to use them as vehicles that let them reach areas to enjoy the wildlife.”
Beyond Adventure is dedicated to protecting the area’s animal life and natural environment by organising litter picks and planting native woodland.
Ross added: “Our wildlife visitors share our passion for the environment and the wildlife that lives in it. This passion is always bound to a commitment to protect both the wildlife and the environment that we are lucky enough to work in every day.
“Responsible tourism is at the core of our business ethos. All of our team are dedicated to constantly reforming our procedures to make sure that we have best practice when looking at access, minimising our carbon footprint and leaving no trace to any of the beautiful areas we visit.”
Ken Massie, VisitScotland Head of Industry Development, said: “Our natural environment is one of the many things that make Scotland so special and we’re lucky that there are so many experiences across the country that let you enjoy the wonders of our wildlife in a responsible way.
“Filmed across the British Isles, Wild Isles showcases Scotland’s unique and beautiful landmarks, coastal scenery and wildlife to audiences and potential visitors from around the UK.
“For many communities, screen tourism – where viewers are inspired to visit locations after seeing them on screen – has brought opportunities to grow the local visitor economy and encourage a wider spread of visitors throughout the year.”
For information on how to enjoy wildlife watching responsibly check out the Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code
*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2103 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 20th May 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
Notes to Editors