A growing demand for nature experiences

Currently, the international demand is booming when it comes to all kinds of nature experiences. Nature-based tourism is on a worldwide basis becoming a very serious industry. In particular wildlife watching is growing almost exponentially and a country’s nature and wildlife is turning into a main reason for visitors to go there.

Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota) portrait, Hohe Tauern National Park, Carinthia, Austria

Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota) portrait, Hohe Tauern National Park, Carinthia, Austria
Grzegorz Lesniewski / Wild Wonders of Europe


There is increasing demand for experiencing all kinds of wild nature and seeing its wildlife

Spearhead attractions

All charismatic wildlife species are potential spearhead attractions. Wildlife watching tourism makes outstanding wildlife experiences accessible to many, and makes wildlife more valuable alive than dead. Particularly it offers the public first-hand experience of engaging with nature, a good business opportunity and is one of the best ways yet to solve man and wildlife conflict.

Which are Europe’s mountain gorillas?

In Africa, a mountain gorilla-watching permit costs 450 euro per day. But which are “Europe’s mountain gorillas”? There is a large variety of species that meet the key characteristics of large animals with big teeth or big horns or antlers, hooked beaks and sharp claws that tend to have the highest value. Particularly important species for Europe are brown bear, bison, Iberian lynx, wild horse, wolf, otter, red deer, aurochs, vultures, eagles, pelicans, flamingos, storks, herons, falcons, cranes, owls, geese and even kites, badgers and martens.

A multi-billion euro industry

For example, in Finland there were approximately 17,000 bear watching guest nights during 2012, a turnover about 6 million euros in total value, including air transportation, gasoline, ferries etc. Wildlife watching in the USA, 2011 directly turned-over €43 billion, 72 million participants, and since 2006, wildlife watching is the number one “outdoor recreational activity” in the USA, involving more people than those who hunt or sports fish, even taken together. In Scotland 56% of all travel “nature oriented”, generating 2 763 jobs, €83 million in turnover in 2011.

Seeing wildlife up close

However, if you don’t see the wildlife the products have low value. Seeing wildlife up close – hides, guides, photography – brings much higher value. For instance the contemporary price levels per day per person to see a variety of species depends on a number of factors and ranges quite widely: bears in Alaska 200-500 euro, Polar bears Svalbard 300-700 euro, Polar bears Canada 200-700 euro, bears in Finland 120-270 euro, owls in Finland & Sweden 100-240 euro, eagles in Norway 180-350 euro, vultures in Spain 100-200 euro, wolf howling in Sweden 200 euro.

The wildlife safari dimension

Safari lodge operators are now beginning to look at Europe, not only as a market source but more and more also as a wildlife travel destination in itself. The main problem to date has just been that there has been to little wildlife to watch, or the shy behaviour of animals due to hunting pressure in most of our continent. However with the wildlife comeback happening in front of our eyes, the doors are slowly beginning to open to a whole new set of tourism products and sources of rural income.