Tourism businesses in Scotland have been urged to make more of the country's natural heritage in a new industry guide, which estimates that over 1.1 million visits are made every year by people enjoying wildlife, with a total spend of about £276m.
The knock-on effect for visiting walkers could include more walker-friendly accommodation, better access to info on wildlife and more opportunities to spot iconic species on guided walking, cycling or kayaking trips. Putting a price tag on natural heritage might even help push conservation further up the national agenda. Well, anything's possible.
The Wildlife Tourism in Scotland guide has been produced by Tourism Intelligence Scotland in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and Wild Scotland.
Demand for wildlife tourism is growing steadily, says the guide, for reasons including the number of TV nature programmes (the 'Springwatch factor'), the rise of the staycation, a general increase in environmental awareness and a growth in 'activity-plus wildlife' trips (sea kayaking to see otters, for instance).
According to the guide Scotland's broad range of iconic species and 'truly unique' landscapes mean that many UK visitors feel there is no need to go further afield. Many hillwalkers and climbers would probably agree.
Big name species include basking sharks, dolphins, puffins, gannets, eagles, red deer and red squirrels.
According to the guide, whale watching alone adds about £7.8m to the economy of western Scotland every year.
The guide advises tourism businesses to regard iconic species as marketing opportunities, and to provide more info on wildlife in their area, offer things like binoculars, and be prepared to cater for wet muddy visitors. More businesses could also be combining wildlife experiences with other activities such as guided walks or kayaking trips.
Launching the guide, Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said:
'Scotland has an abundant range of rich and unique wildlife and habitats - from ospreys to otters, and forests to farmland. We also have some of the most fantastic, world-class settings in which to enjoy wildlife.'
'Over a million wildlife trips a year are already taken to or within Scotland, where people visit specifically to view our rich wildlife.'
'In reality, however, the scope of wildlife tourism is much larger, with some 58% of all visitors to Scotland citing our scenery and landscapes as their top reason for choosing us as a holiday destination.'
Coming from a member of an administration that seems far more keen to industrialise the Scottish landscape than preserve it, it is hard to know what to make of this.