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Wild Scotland Annual Conference: wildlife tourism is thriving

Wildlife tourism professionals are meeting this week for Wild Scotland’s Annual Conference near Perth.  This year, the conference will reflect on issues facing the sector. Many companies started this season with some trepidation owing to the state of the economy, however feedback from Wild Scotland members about their season shows that 2009 has been an excellent year for wildlife tourism.

Annual figures show that 61% of Wild Scotland members had a better year than 2008. This is the highest percentage since the survey began in 2006 and shows the continuing success of wildlife tourism in Scotland.

Almost sixty percent (59%) felt that they had benefitted from the much-heralded ‘staycation’ with British people choosing to holiday in the UK. A significant number also commented on a marked increase in European visitors this year. This may be due to the weak pound and presents an opportunity to showcase Scotland’s wildlife to an international audience.

As awareness of wildlife watching in Scotland appears to be growing, the conference will also focus on a species which is currently struggling to get noticed, the Scottish wildcat. Wild Scotland is supporting the Highland Tiger campaign which aims to raise the profile of this iconic species and our only native feline.

Caroline Warburton of Wild Scotland commented:  “Wildlife tourism in Scotland has had another great season which is excellent news for everyone. Businesses have worked hard this year but their work has paid off and the results of the survey hopefully show that wildlife tourism in Scotland is here to stay. As well as the positives, the survey also highlights the growing number of issues which businesses are facing, such as rising costs and threats to wildlife populations on which they depend. By making more people aware of the wildlife in Scotland, we hope that we can involve more people in the debate about how best to manage it”.

The conference programme will include sessions with:
•    Wildlife photographer, Peter Cairns of the Wild Media Foundation who will highlight the plight of the Scottish wildcat and the Highland Tiger campaign
•    Linzi Seivwright of Deer Commission Scotland who will present the findings of research undertaken on wildlife tourism.

Following the morning conference, afternoon workshops will present the opportunity for delegates to feed into current research on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by the wildlife tourism industry in Scotland. This analysis forms part of a wider study into the economic impact of wildlife tourism in Scotland co-funded by the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage.

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