Innovative nature tourism in Scotland and Ireland: building and scaling the world’s ‘best green tour operator’


Context: Wilderness Scotland was created in 2000, offering nature-based adventure experiences in the highlands and islands of Scotland.  The business model was inspired by successful examples in Canada and New Zealand, and was the first company of its kind in Europe.  It now operates across the UK and Ireland, employs over 60 people and has been recognised as ‘Europe’s No 1 Adventure Travel Company’ by National Geographic Magazine, and twice selected as the ‘Best Green Tour Operator’ at the prestigious World Travel Awards.

Our Role: Conservation Capital principals co-founded the business and have chaired the board during a period of significant expansion.  The company has developed relationships with most of the world’s leading specialist adventure travel companies and although still small in global terms, is now established as the leading ‘in-bound’ nature tour operator in Europe.  Having launched a sister operation ‘Wilderness Ireland’ in 2012, the company is developing a strategic plan for expansion and replication across a range of European countries.

Outcomes: Wilderness Scotland has developed an innovative scheme whereby guests are encouraged to contribute to a range of conservation initiatives, which are then matched by the company.  It has pioneered Europe’s first ‘Wilderness Guide Training Programme’ and is the only tour operator in the UK to be awarded a 5-star rating under the Green Tourism Business Scheme.  The company generates current annual revenues of c. US$ 5 million from > 20,000 bed-nights at a c. 7% EBITDA margin.  It has generated a compounded annual revenue growth rate (GAGR) of more than 30% since its formation.