Wild Scotland Industry Survey Results -The continued impact of COVID-19 on tourism…

The Wildlife Survey circulated during early September 2021 looks at the impact of ongoing restrictions on businesses and operators working in the wildlife, activity and adventure tourism sector in Scotland.


Please see a summary of the results below

  • 45% surveyed say that they are still operating at a reduced capacity
  • 37% surveyed say they are fully open and profitable.
  • 4% of those surveyed remain fully closed.
  • 48% surveyed say they are not operating at an economically sustainable level.
  • 90% of Tour Operators that responded in the survey are not operating at an economically sustainable level.
  • 35% surveyed say they are holding 2-3 months of reserves with 10% holding no reserves.

Recruitment Challenges

  • 49% of those surveyed employ or contract between 1 and 5 people with 24 % saying they are solo operators. 10% employ or contract 5-10 people and 16% 10 or more.
  • 29% of all surveyed are experiencing recruitment challenges which relate specifically to skilled seasonal guides and instructors. Drilling this down to boat operators 50% of those surveyed are experiencing problems in this area.
  • There are a mix of reasons including lack of skilled and qualified guides/ instructors available – some have drifted into other jobs due to uncertainty in the sector. Housing of staff has also been identified as an issue in some rural areas.
  • 24% across all surveyed are currently recruiting for staff.
  • 50% of day boat operators are currently recruiting.

Most significant barrier to recovery

The most significant barrier to recovery has been identified as lack of international visitors.

  • 52% of all surveyed say they have a reliance on international visitors.
  • 55% of activity operators surveyed have a reliance on international visitors.
  • 60% wildlife watching operators surveyed have a reliance on international visitors
  • 89% of tour operators responding in the survey have a reliance on international visitors
  • 46% boat operators surveyed have a reliance on international visitors

This second most significant barrier identified is the concern for lack of further funding support from UK and Scottish Government.

Ongoing restrictions & regulations (e.g. red./amber/green international travel restrictions, test & protect regulations etc) has also been highlighted as a significant barrier to recovery.


  • Overall, 50% say they intend to operate right through the winter with an additional 12% looking to adapt their product to operate through the winter and an additional 7% say they are not sure but are considering staying open for longer.
  • Breaking it down 64% of activity operators say they intend to operate through the winter with a further 9% planning to adapt and 5% saying they are thinking about it.
  • 30% Wildlife Watching Operators are adapting their business to operate through the winter
  • Day boat operators – 60% will not be operating through the winter and 20% intend to adapt their business to stay open and a further 20% are thinking about it.
  • There is a real mix across the sector relating to survival through the winter with 34% remaining neutral and then a balance of pessimistic and optimistic.
  • Drilling down to the activity sector there is a slightly more pessimistic view.
  • Over the next two months 32% say bookings are looking poor and 31% say they are looking good.
  • Over the next 12 months 32% say bookings are looking good, 24% say they are poor and 12% say dreadful.

Ongoing Support

  • The number one priority identified for ongoing support is ‘A further round of targeted financial support to avoid structural failure during the winter of 21/22’.
  • Increased national marketing spend on UK markets was also identified as a high priority along with increased spend on international marketing, domestic Scottish/local marketing and easing of international restrictions.

COVID Mitigating Measures

  • The survey shows that businesses in the sector are operating with a number of COVID mitigating measures 34% surveyed say they do not know how long they will keep these measures in place whilst 24% say they will keep measures in place indefinitely.