Under the influence of nature: the contribution of natural capital to tourism spend

Fitch, Alice; Kuyer, Jake; Kharadi, Natalya; Gower, Jacob; Roberts, Caroline; Dewey, Nicola; Hull, Stephen; Jones, Laurence. 2022 Under the influence of nature: the contribution of natural capital to tourism spend. PLoS ONE, 17 (6), e0269790. 22, pp.

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Tourism and outdoor leisure is an important economic sector for many countries, and has a substantial reliance on natural capital. Natural capital may be the primary purpose for tourism, or it may be a secondary factor, where the choice of location for a leisure activity is influenced by natural capital. Typically, when valuing tourism and outdoor leisure, all expenditure associated with the activity is assigned to the ecosystem it occurs in. However, this value illustrates the dependency on natural capital, rather than the contribution of natural capital. In natural capital accounting, a major challenge is to separately identify the contribution of natural capital from that of other forms of capital. In this study we develop a transparent and repeatable method that is able to attribute the contribution of natural capital (here defined as ecosystems) to the output of multiple tourism and outdoor leisure activities. Using national statistics from Great Britain, we calculate the natural capital contribution to tourism spend by activity at a national and regional scale, and for a case study map and value the contributing ecosystems. We estimated that, out of a total £36 billion spent on tourism and leisure activities in 2017, £22.5 billion was attributable to natural capital. This equates to 0.9% of the UK GDP. The Gross Value Added component of this attributable was £10.5 billion, equivalent to 0.4% of the UK GDP. Regions with the highest natural capital contribution in Great Britain were Scotland and Wales, with the lowest being Greater London and the West Midlands in England. For the case study, the ecosystems with the greatest contribution to terrestrial activities were marine and enclosed farmland. These methods can be applied worldwide for anywhere with aggregate economic statistics on expenditure associated with tourism and outdoor leisure, with the aid of open source GIS datasets.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Economics
Date made live: 10 Aug 2022 14:43 +0 (UTC)

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