UK outdoor industry announces major initiative to get more people into the outdoors.
The Outdoors Industry Association (OIA) is the trade body for the outdoors industry in the UK and yesterday it announced arguably its most important campaign ever, 'Britain On Foot' a full-on, big-picture initiative aimed ultimately at getting more people out into the outdoors.
It's a seriously ambitious project which will be launched at the Palace of Westminster on 24 October to a mix of high-level national politicians, outdoor industry leaders and the media with support from the BMC and the Mountaineering All Party Parliamentary Group.
Getting More People Outdoors
So what's it all about? Well, the aim of the envisaged 'multi-platform consumer campaign' is to reach out to a really wide audience and promote the benefits of getting outdoors anywhere from the local park to a high mountain peak. BoF - we like the sound of BoF - will cover pretty much anything outdoors from walking and trail running through climbing, mountain biking, family camping trips through to stuff like geocaching and high rope courses.
All of which sounds spot on. For it to work though, it depends on co-operation with the government and a coordinated approach throughout the industry. On the Government front, it's all about focussing on the health benefits of walking in a country where obesity is a growing issue and 63% of people fail to meet the Department for Health's activity targets.
Put simply, getting people outdoors means a healthier population, reducing the risk of strokes and heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and more, which of course reduces the load on the National Health Service, which for a government committed to cost cutting is obvious good news.
There's a secondary benefit too, the OIA estimates the size of the 'outdoor economy' at a whopping £20bn or 1.65% of the UK's GDP - to put that in perspective defence is 3.8% and education 3% - so anything that gets more people outside also helps to boost an important area of the economy.
And pretty obviously, for the industry itself, it's all about selling more kit and having a healthy outdoors industry. That's what industry associations are about after all. But that doesn't, of course, mean that the other benefits don't exist or that it's some sort of sinister, purely Machiavellian exercise in self promotion.
OIA On The Rise
The initial signs seem good. Under the leadership of former Mountain Equipment head honcho Andrew Denton, the OIA is on the up with membership numbers up 63% over 2011, a reduced cost base and new offices. Crucially a number of top companies have already pledge financial support for BoF and prominent political figures are throwing their weight behind it thanks to tenacious lobbying with a number of MPs including Anne Milton, Under-Secretary of State for Public Health who is set to speak at the launch of BF.
Denton is positive and enthused by the campaign, but also realistic: '“As an industry, we can create something very special through Britain on Foot. The OIA is privileged and delighted to be leading this campaign, but it will only succeed if the trade gets behind it in a big way."
It's an ambitious initiative all right that echoes the stance of the Ramblers Association, which has been using the health issue as political leverage for years now but realistically, it's going to work if it gets serious financial backing and comprehensive, coordinated industry support.
Its early days, but it's great to see the outdoors industry being so ambitious and positive. If you're involved in the industry and want to find out more check out the OIA web page at www.outdoorindustriesassociation.co.uk.