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What are country sports and how can your business benefit?

Scotland’s country sports sector contributes almost one million nights to the nation’s tourism sector.

deer stalking on hills

More than 270,000 trips of at least one night are made by visitors to Scotland each year for country sports. These trips are estimated to directly contribute in excess of £155 million per year.

Yet, this figure doesn’t include the ‘ripple effect’ that these visitors have on the wider economy of Scotland, which includes the domestic consumption and direct sale of game and venison, which is considered to be as much again.

Country sports are defined as:

  • Legal shooting of birds or animals: avian pest/predator control, mammalian pest/predator control, driven grouse, walked-up and driven game, coastal wildfowling, inland duck and goose shooting, deer stalking, wild boar, wild goat.
  • Fishing activity: game angling, coarse and sea-fishing.
  • Clay pigeon shooting: shooting at special flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets, with a shotgun.
  • Target shooting: air gun, black powder, small bore and full bore.

Country sports encompasses a number of outdoor pursuits; from game and rough shooting, deer stalking and wildfowling, to clay pigeon, target shooting and fishing.

Scotland covers 7.8 million hectares; of this, some 4.4 million hectares are utilised for shooting.

Scotland is fortunate in having extensive areas where country sports can be enjoyed alongside a wide range of other outdoor activities. 40% of Scotland is upland, home to deer and large numbers of game birds, there are many salmon rivers and freshwater lochs. Overwintering, migratory waterfowl and waders number in the millions. Scotland is recognised as a country sports venue offering a unique blend of high quality, professionally managed stalking, shooting and fishing experiences set against a stunning natural and cultural backdrop.

In Scotland it is possible to participate in a country sport 364 days a year. Many of the quarry species have both ‘open’ and ‘closed’ season to actively manage the natural resource and the environment.

Country Sports Seasonal - Deer

Scotland is widely recognised as the birthplace of many of the world’s premier country sports and attracts over 640,000 gun days each year.

The major competitive advantages that the country has over its rivals (mainly Scandinavia, Ireland, England and Russia) are its:

  • Earlier and longer season
  • Proximity/accessibility to market (including second most commonly spoken language worldwide)
  • Privacy, exclusivity, low group numbers
  • Tradition/heritage
  • Landscape, scenery, conservation
Country Sports Seasonality - Game

What’s it worth?

The total expenditure in Scotland for country sports tourism is valued at £155 million; £86 million attributed to fishing and £69 million to shooting.

The shooting industry supports £200 million total GVA each year to the Scottish economy; freshwater fishing is reported to be increasing the Scottish economy by £100 million; and tourist expenditure around the sports valued at £155 million.

Although freshwater fishing contributes to the majority of the visitor nights (630,000); shooting and stalking produced a higher spend per night; in 2012/13 visitors spent on average more than £1,000 on shooting/stalking per night. 

The direct Gross Value Added (GVA) of overnight visitors alone is £50 million; £21 million generated by shooting and stalking and £29 million by fishing.

Country Sports Seasonal - Angling
  • So who is visiting and what do they want?

  • Each year more than 270,000 country sports tourism trips result in 910,000 visitor nights

Who are the visitors, where are they from and where are they going?

From the Highlands to the Borders, country sports visitors make trips to every corner of Scotland.

This type of tourist makes multiple trips each year, visiting multiple regions in Scotland – often within the same visit. The Highlands is one of the most frequently visited regions by both those seeking out shooting/stalking and fishing opportunities. Other very popular regions for fishing include the Scottish Borders and Aberdeen City & Shire; whilst Dumfries & Galloway and Perthshire are also popular with visitors seeking shooting and stalking.

Generally the core market for country sports is men; 85% of shooting tourists over 40 years, 90% of fishing tourists over 45 years, with 68% over 55 years. Nearly a third of the country sport visitors come from Scotland, more than half come from England and 15% come from overseas, mainly Europe and North America.

The visitors, predominantly from England, generally make between four and seven trips to Scotland per year. More than half stay in a hotel and just over half will stay for six nights or fewer, travelling with two to four companions, spending between £1,000 and £9,000 per group, per trip.

Although there is some overlap in the different sports that visitors participate in, only 10%-15% of visitors come to Scotland on a dual country sport activity trip. Yet, our research shows that nearly half of all visitors who come to Scotland for shooting also took part in freshwater fishing at some point, although only a quarter of fishing visitors took part in a shooting activity. However, all visitors do participate in other forms of tourism activity – sightseeing, visiting attractions, other activities etc.

What does the country sport visitor want?

The most popular country sports activities

Country Sports Popularity

Next: what are the opportunities in the country sports market for you?

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Funded by Scottish Enterprise