North east Scotland is targeting sustainable growth in adventure tourism as part of the long-term economic recovery plan for the tourism sector.
Opportunity North East (ONE), Scottish Enterprise and Aberdeenshire Council are co-funding the next phase of development of a project to increase the value of adventure tourism in the region over the next five to 10 years, with support from VisitAberdeenshire. The goal is to secure a bigger share of the high-value UK adventure tourism market. The project will encourage more visitors to stay in the region longer because of the range and quality of adventure activities on offer.
The project now has added significance as the tourism sector plans for recovery once COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased and visitors are welcomed back to Scotland.
It will focus on the delivery of projects for new land based and coastal activities, creating new events and marketing the area as a leading UK adventure sports destination. This will also increase the amenities available to local residents and communities, contributing to the attractiveness of the region and its future wellbeing economy.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, adventure tourism was the fastest growing sector of the visitor economy in the UK and contributed around £75 million of annual visitor spend in north east Scotland. The region has strengths in landscape, scenery and a mix of terrain including mountains, forests and coastline and pockets of activity covering walking, climbing, cycling, mountain biking, marine and river activities, wildlife and snow sports. There is a real opportunity to raise the region’s adventure tourism profile and grow the market. The successful development of the sector to 2030 could create a further 500 full-time equivalent jobs and secure an additional £120 million to £160 million in visitor spend.
Work with businesses and stakeholders in recent years, led by ONE, has identified opportunities to build on the region's natural assets and adventure tourism sector. The steering group is working on a detailed business case to secure funding to invest in the project and realise the region’s full adventure tourism potential.
The partners have committed project funding of almost £150,000 for 12 months to focus on four areas of activity.
A project coordinator with extensive industry experience, Will Clarke, has been appointed to work with the adventure tourism businesses and the project partners, comprising the funding partners and Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland.
Will has spent the last two years as Aberdeenshire Mountain Bike Development Co-ordinator providing support to business, events, raising awareness of the region and developing the adventure tourism offer. An enthusiastic cyclist, hiker and climber with a background in secondary education and sports development, Will brings relevant sector insight to the new project coordinator role.
Jennifer Craw, chief executive of Opportunity North East, said: "Planning for the reopening of the visitor economy and securing funding to drive growth are essential restart and rebuild actions. Industry has an opportunity to develop the valuable adventure tourism market by capitalising on our natural assets, from mountains to sea, and investing in our adventure sports facilities and products. Achieving this will enable businesses to grow long term, create jobs and anchor economic activity in our rural and coastal communities.
“The project partners, including industry, are providing resources to support the sector to plan beyond the current crisis and work together for sustainable growth in adventure tourism activity. Securing public funding to invest in this opportunity will be essential to its success,” said Ms Craw.
Councillor Peter Argyle, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, commented: “I am delighted that Will continues to make such a valuable contribution following on from his Mountain Bike Development Co-ordinator role, which we also part-funded.
“The value of that experience in this new role is already apparent in seeing landowners, tourists and adventure providers working together to ensure everyone benefits from adventure tourism.
“Given the current Covid restrictions, this role is even more important both in terms of far greater outdoor sports participation and the opportunity that it provides to maximise the economic value within the fantastic Aberdeenshire countryside and coastline,” said Councillor Argyle.
Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, added: “VisitAberdeenshire has a track record of delivering highly effective marketing and communication campaigns to promote tourism in the North-east, and we will draw on this experience to inspire more people to visit the region for an active escape. Adventure tourism is an exciting prospect for the North-east, with innovative local businesses offering memorable experiences from paddle boarding off coastal villages to scaling the heights of Ben Macdui, or an e-bike ride in the countryside.”
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