Dolphin watching in Scotland

The presence of the bottlenose dolphin population in Scotland brings at least an additional ??6.5 million in tourism expenditure into our economy.

Over the last decade the number of visitors to Scotland interested in wildlife has been increasing steadily. Television programmes such as BBC Coast and Springwatch have increased public awareness of the dolphin watching experience so more and more visitors want to try it for themselves. 

A recent public survey by VisitScotland found that dolphin watching was considered the Number 1 ‘perfect day’ activity when visiting Scotland.

Our dolphin population creates a unique holiday destination that supports a wide network of general tourism businesses.

Things you should know

The bulk of dolphin-related tourism expenditure is received by general tourist providers around the Moray Firth region, particularly Highland (61 per cent) and Moray (14 per cent); Aberdeenshire, Angus and Dundee, and Fife receive around 10 per cent, with the remainder spread throughout other areas of Scotland.

A third of visitors to the premiere dolphin viewing locations around Highland and Grampian considered seeing dolphins as the main reason for their visit.

Knowing the market

Overnight visitors with an interest in bottlenose dolphins spend on average £413 per trip and stay in Scotland for 9.5 days.

More than 80 per cent of visitors have professional, administrative and managerial occupations (ABC1).

Over two thirds of visitors in the peak summer months are from the UK outside Scotland; Scottish visitors are more highly represented in the off-peak period (38%). Only 15 per cent of visitors are from overseas.

Peak season visitors are more represented by families with children staying for one to two weeks, whilst off-peak visitors tend to be older and on short breaks.

Opportunities for businesses

Four out of five visitors (for whom dolphins were important in their decision to visit) thought they might visit again in the future. Encourage them back by offering repeat visit promotions related to the dolphin watching experience.

85 per cent of all visitors to dolphin-oriented locations would recommend the area to others. Encourage them to leave feedback about your business on review sites such as Tripadvisor.

The majority of visitors plan some or all of their trip in advance in order to see dolphins. Think about how you can collaborate with wildlife trip providers for online promotions or joint packages.

72 per cent of visitors would like more information on where to walk to see dolphins so provide details about coastal walks and viewing points near your business.

If you remember one thing

Promote the marine and coastal wildlife of Scotland in your marketing materials – even if you can’t guarantee a dolphin sighting, the possibility may capture the imagination of visitors.

Source: The Value of Tourism Expenditure related to the East of Scotland Bottlenose Dolphin Population by Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability for the Moray Firth Partnership, August 2010