How effective are nature-based tourism activities in the Wadden Sea area?

A majority of the visitors to the Wadden Islands have participated one or more times in a nature excursion. This is shown by a survey conducted by ETFI on behalf of the Dutch Wadden Society.

Preference for active nature excursions

Especially excursions where visitors can experience the landscapes of the Wadden Sea area on foot or by foot are preferred. Participants of excursions from the Wadden Society are generally very satisfied and aware of the unique nature and vulnerability of the Wadden Sea.

No insight into effectiveness of excursions

Over the years, a wide range of different excursions in the Wadden Sea Region has been developed. The Wadden Centres on the islands, nature conservation organisations such as the Dutch Forestry Department and Society for the Preservation of Nature, entrepreneurs and the Wadden Society organise numerous activities where visitors get to know the unique Wadden Sea nature. For instance, the Wadden Society has been organising excursions on the Wadden Islands for over 30 years. However, the impact of all those activities has never been properly examined. Furthermore, there is hardly any picture of the wishes and needs of the potential participants.

Activities undertaken by island tourists

In the summer of 2017 surveys were conducted on all the Dutch Wadden Islands. The replies showed that more than half of the respondents (56%) participated in an excursion. Most of the visitors preferred taking waking trips or going boating as, in their opinion, it allowed them to fully enjoy the landscapes of the Wadden Sea area and learn more about the local nature. Whereas, birdwatching excursions or botanic walks along with spiritual activities such as yoga on mudflats were less popular. Most of the respondents preferred an excursion lasting between two and four hours and they were willing to pay an amount between 15 and 20 euros for the activities.

Uniqueness and vulnerability of the Wadden Sea

Participants in the World Heritage Excursions of the Wadden Society were generally very satisfied. According to participants, the excursion contributed to their knowledge about the Wadden Sea region. People also became more aware of the uniqueness and vulnerability of nature in the Wadden Sea area. Furthermore, over 85% of those respondents indicated that participation in the excursion influenced their desire to visit the Wadden Sea Region more often.

Sustainable tourism development

Although beach, dunes and salt marshes are the most favourite places for the tourists, along with walking and cycling around the island, the results of this research can be used to deduce that excursions contribute to repeat visits, and thus to a sustainable development of tourism in the Wadden Sea area.

Are you interested to read more research results? Contact our Wadden Sea expert Hans Revier.