VisitScotland has commissioned a visitor survey of attitudes to windfarms in Scotland. The tangible evidence from this survey of attitudes to windfarms actually underlines the dangers to Shetland’s tourism industry.
Visitors rarely come to Shetland for a single reason; mostly they come to experience all that Shetland has to offer as a package – an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
To put the VisitScotland survey in context we need to look first at the Shetland Visitor Survey for Shetland Islands Council from 2006. This shows clearly that: 91 per cent of all visitors to Shetland visit Central Mainland and 61 per cent visit North Mainland; 10 per cent of tourists come to Shetland for scenery and landscape; 10 per cent come for peace, quiet and remoteness; 17 per cent come for birds/wildlife/nature/flora. In fact this survey shows 91 per cent of all visitors, and in particular 37 per cent of tourists, visit Shetland for a positive environmental experience. In Scotland visitors that find wind turbines objectionable can easily move a relatively short distance to another area.
The VisitScotland survey, which is pretty superficial anyway, is seriously flawed by not factoring in the visitor demographic. For example the survey didn’t look at the visitor demographic to ascertain what percentage were wildlife or outdoor tourists – a factor that would have a crucial bearing on analysis of the survey answers. However the survey did state that: ‘18.7% of UK consumers were in agreement as well as nearly 20% of Scotland respondents that the countryside was spoilt by these structures’. Also ‘18% of UK respondents and 17% of Scotland respondents agreed that they would tend to avoid any parts of the countryside with wind farms’ .When you look at this in the context of the Shetland survey it is a fair bet that these respondents were wildlife or outdoor tourists.
One result from the survey that is extremely worrying for Shetland is the analysis of visitor response to statement: 1.4.3: It would be an added attraction if wind farms were located in popular tourist areas. Analysis: ‘It appears that respondents would in general prefer not to see wind farms in popular tourist areas with 43% of respondents disagreeing with this statement’. Furthermore the survey states: ‘41% of UK and Scotland respondents disagreed that seeing a wind farm would add to their enjoyment of the UK/Scotland countryside’.
Shetland is in fact marketed by both VisitScotland and Promote Shetland as a separate and distinct tourist destination. Potentially Viking Energy could lose us 43% of our tourist trade.
As well as destroying our landscape the proposed Viking Energy industrial belt across the heart of Central Mainland could have a devastating effect on our tourism Industry. No longer would we be able to market ourselves as a unique and beautiful landscape to compare with any on the planet; no longer would National Geographic sing our praises.