South Stack Cliffs is a wonderful place for nature, part of a popular destination enjoyed by local people and tourists for almost 200 years, and where the RSPB has been managing the habitats and showing people wildlife for over 40 years.  As the RSPB’s involvement at South Stack has grown, so has the economic benefit provided by the nature reserve and visitor operation.

RSPB nature reserves represent significant and diverse sources of employment and income in their surrounding economies. In 2009, the RSPB’s reserve network attracted £66 million to local communities in 2009, supporting 1,872 FTE (full-time equivalent) local jobs. South Stack was one of the sites studied as part of that study, RSPB Reserves and Local Economies (2011), so ten years on, we asked Paul Morling, the RSPB’s principal economist, to update the assessment, based on 2017-18 figures.

The headlines are that:

  • RSPB South Stack supports at least 92.4 FTE jobs, of which 78.4 are not RSPB staff.
  • Local direct expenditure by the South Stack reserve/visitor operation is almost £139,000, two-thirds of which is spent with businesses on Anglesey.
  • Local spend by visitors attributable directly to South Stack reserve is over £3.8 million.


More detail on the numbers is below, but we are pleased to know that South Stack continues to contribute to the local economy, as well as making a huge difference to nature on Holy Island.


Direct employment

In 2017, the RSPB employed 20 staff at South Stack, equivalent to 14 FTE jobs. These unsubsidised salaries, amounting to approximately £250,000 a year, go to local people (all but one lives on the island of Anglesey), who spend a portion of their earnings in the local economy.

The local economic impact of staff expenditure is calculated based on a variety of assumptions (described in our 2011 report) and it’s estimated that for each full-time employee on an RSPB nature reserve, another 0.1 FTE job is supported locally by the money they spend. So, the 14 FTE staff at South Stack support an additional 1.4 FTE jobs, compared to 0.36 FTE in 2009.


Reserve expenditure

In our 2009 study, expenditure on reserve management into the local economy and via grazing lets (based on an average of the previous five years), was estimated at £13,885 and 0.61 FTE jobs, based on a multiplier derived from a more detailed study in Scotland. This assumed that 70% of total expenditure was spent in the local economy.

In 2017-18, expenditure on running the reserve and its visitor operations (which has greatly expanded since 2009) into the local economy was £138,942. For this purpose, we defined ‘local’ as businesses based in North Wales, which can be divided into three categories:

  • Anglesey owned business/contractor: £91,684
  • North Wales mainland owned business/contractor: £45,315
  • UK company with an Anglesey outlet: £1,943

Local companies that benefit from this expenditure, providing employment on Anglesey, include Y Becws Mefus (the bakery in Llangefni), Môn ar Lwy (ice cream makers in Bodorgan).

Redevelopment of visitor facilities and rebuilding of the reserve office in 2019 will provide a further one-off boost to the local economy, with an anticipated spend of around £940,000 much of which is being spent with contractors from North Wales, including subcontractors from Anglesey.  Not withstanding this one-off expenditure, running South Stack costs the RSPB around £100,000 net each year.


Visitors to South Stack

Spending by visitors benefits a wide range of local enterprises, from hotels and pubs to attractions, cafes, local transport and shops, resulting in additional business turnover. This directly supports employment and local incomes, and in turn boosts the turnover of suppliers of those businesses. And, just as a proportion of RSPB staff salaries is spent locally, so are the salaries of employees of these local businesses.

Based on visitor numbers in 2017 and using local spend information from STEAM surveys on Anglesey (a Tourism Economic Activity model that is widely used in the industry), it’s estimated that:

  • Total employment supported by visitor spending to South Stack was 77 FTEs
  • Total income by visitors attributable directly to South Stack was around £1,895,742
  • Local spend attributable by visitors to South Stack was around £3,868,861

In our 2009 study, we estimated that South Stack supported 12.95 FTE jobs in the local area and supported £279,198 of local income by visitor spend. We can’t make a direct comparison with the most recent figures as we used a different source of data, but we can certainly say that the contribution made by South Stack to the Anglesey economy has grown substantially in the last 10 years!

  • Yet the majority of local people where against these future car park charges and yet the RSPB appealed against the earlier verdict against  local peoples wishes. Not very good public relations by the RSPB with local people and that saddens me as a life member of the RSPB.