What is Nature Tourism?

Nature tourism (c) VHEY

Nature tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism offer around the world. Here in East Yorkshire it is already worth over £15m a year to local communities.


Put simply, nature tourism or wildlife tourism involves people travelling to an area to take part in outdoor activities that typically includes: birdwatching, whale watching, boat trips, photography, walks and/or cycling or professionally guided trips or short courses to learn about and experience wildlife. These visitors are often keen to support the environment and wildlife too, seeking out 'eco-friendly' places to stay or visit, or locations to enjoy locally sourced food.

The UK picture

Many parts of Britain have a buoyant nature tourism economy. North Norfolk, for example, has capitalised on its rich environmental assets, and a new tourism economy has been largely created during the last 30 years. This includes nature reserves and the staff required to run them, retail operations and spin-off businesses: B&Bs, boat trips, pubs, cafés, restaurants, galleries and shops.

Importantly, nature tourism is year-round, with many charismatic species visible in spring, autumn, and even the depths of winter. A 2016 survey by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and AECOM suggested that two-thirds of East Riding businesses believed that wildlife watching was a key reason for the guests coming to the area, with a third also stating that they felt 'wildlife tours' offered the greatest potential for growth.

East Yorkshire - a £30m opportunity

Nature tourism in East Yorkshire could be worth £30m per year in just a decade - ICRT report

The economic value of tourism in East Riding is estimated at over £700m annually, and it's believed that up to 4% of visitors are engaging with nature-based activity during their trip.  A Leeds Beckett University report in 2016, suggested that nature tourism currently contributes an estimated £15m to the area, however it also indicated that with the right support, that figure could rise to £30m by 2020.

Wildlife and landscape have been identified as key elements to the tourism offer in East Riding, with both the coast and the Wolds seen as significant drivers for visitors coming to the area through product development analyses undertaken by Visit Hull & East Yorkshire.

See the ICRT report on the Economic Potential for Nature Tourism in Eastern Yorkshire