Case Study

Conservation holidays on the Suffolk Coast


We introduced conservation holidays to the Suffolk coast, as part of a programme to increase the economic and conservation benefits in this rural area through positive eco-tourism. We aimed to:

Increase visitor numbers and spend in rural areas;

Gain direct positive contribution to the work of local conservation organisations;

Establish deeper engagement with the area by visitors.

We partnered with a regional company who worked with AONB Partnership members to establish three holidays. Considerable marketing was done nationally and good contacts made with travel journalists. Sufficient numbers of press and public attended the three holidays that were delivered in 2016.

What was done

We sought and developed a partnership with a regional small conservation holiday business and were able to encourage them to develop and set up pilot holidays on the Suffolk Coast, supporting financially with grant aid from the Coastal Communities Fund and via AONB team support to encourage, provide local knowledge, and encourage partnership development with coastal organisations, accommodation agencies and communities. Three holidays were run in the pilot year 2016, and subsequently Wild Days Conservation have established further holidays on the Suffolk coast.


The holidays were designed to support the rural economy through sustainable tourism and make a positive contribution to the environment. The report notes that: “Holidaymakers felt that the holidays provided good value for money, one respondent saying that they regularly undertake walking holidays which provide similar facilities and are about the same price.”

Outputs Achieved from Conservation Holidays:

  • 91 out of season bed nights
  • £9,517 into the local economy out of season
  • 8 press articles in local and national press and a variety of social media outputs
  • 3 temporary jobs created
  • 6 leaders trained
  • 4 hectares of land managed
  • 15 species monitored
  • Over 80 people engaged through events training hols and landowners.


The project found that demand is growing to develop positive eco-tourism in Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB in partnership with social enterprise Wild Days Conservation. The model, tested in 2016, has potential for replication and scaling in other rural areas in the UK.

Further information

The report, produced by AKTA Partnership and released in Jan 2017, set out to review the current state of the UK Conservation Holidays market and what the future may look like. It includes a commentary on the potential future development and gains for protected areas and the local economy based on the opinions of those close to the market.

Summary of UK Conservation Holidays Report (pdf)

Suffolk and Essex Coast and Heaths NL - Invasive species survey

Invasive Species Survey at RSPB Minsmere

Suffolk & Essex Coast & Heath NL - Bird survey at Dunwich Heath

2016 Bird Survey at Dunwich Heath

Suffolk & Essex Coast & Heath NL - Wild Days Conservation Holiday Group (Small Mammal Survey)

Wild Days Conservation Holiday Group (Small Mammal Survey) - Suffolk
Coast & Heath National Landscape

In 2013 we asked the question: is there any way we can increase the desire in people, especially those who visit and enjoy the outstanding landscape of the Suffolk coast, to contribute both to the conservation of and economy of the area? Developing and delivering activities around this subject has been a fascinating journey to understand what motivates people to join in, what the Suffolk coast offer really is, and what the wider market for ‘volunteering and visiting’ is. In particular, the development of conservation holidays had not previously been tested in the area or even, as it turns out, to a great extent in the UK, with no common approach to setting them up or how to attract people to join in through marketing and promotion methods.

Cathy Smith, Suffolk & Essex Coast & Heaths National Landscape - Project Manager

I got an excellent insight into how wildlife sites are managed and I now appreciate the hard work involved. I wasn’t even aware that this type of holiday existed and I will certainly be looking to return to Suffolk in the future.

Paul’s Experience, Dunwich - participant