A boom in wildlife tourism in East Yorkshire has given the region a multi-million pound boost, according to new research.
Wildlife watching trips to the area are now worth £24m to the local economy, up from £9m eight years ago.
A hotspot for nature enthusiasts, East Yorkshire boasts puffins at Flamborough, the country’s largest mainland gannet colony at Bempton Cliffs and seals along its coastline, while 2018 was a record year for whale and dolphin sightings.
The region’s growing trend for wildlife tourism - which is reflected nationally - is affirmed by a rising number of visitors to East Yorkshire’s nature reserves.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has reported that visits to local nature reserves have more than doubled in the last eight years. Most visitors were taking day trips from home and a third of people interviewed said they were on holiday in the area.
The region’s wildlife appeal is now all year round, the trust said, with people visiting to watch bird migrations in spring and autumn, while a growing number of people are passing through East Yorkshire’s rolling countryside to reach Bridlington, Filey and other beach resorts in the peak holiday season.
Dr Rob Stoneman, the trust’s chief executive, said: “East Yorkshire is one of the best corners of the UK to watch wildlife and enjoy the outdoors, as more and more people are discovering.
“From our stunning coastline to the peaceful and historic Wolds, visitors will find spectacular places to see wildlife alongside all the creature comforts they might want or need.”
The trust, Yorkshire Water, the RSPB and East Riding of Yorkshire Council are all investing in and promoting nature reserves and visitor facilities to encourage more people to learn about and care for wildlife and wild spaces, he said.
New facilities have helped increase visits to RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Centre at Flamborough and Tophill Low Nature Reserve near the village of Watton.
A new £1.3m visitor centre opened last March at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Spurn National Nature Reserve, despite huge public opposition over fears of flooding and environmental damage. The centre has gone on to welcome more than 40,000 visitors.
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said the growing value of wildlife tourism to businesses was “great for the morale and continuing success of the region’s tourism service providers”.
Three new spring wildlife-watching guides for East Yorkshire have been published by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust-led Yorkshire Nature Triangle project to further capitalise on the trend.
Prof Rhodri Thomas, dean of Leeds Beckett’s School of Events, Tourism, Events and Hospitality Management, added that the economic study helps confirm that tourism can support environmentally important projects to contribute to the local economy, if it is managed sensitively.