OIA Update – October 2018

Collaboration.  That’s a word we hear and read a lot these days.  In truth, we’ve been living and breathing the word in our industry for a long time.  It’s a theme that the OIA article in the last issue of Outdoori touched on and collaboration continues to define a lot of what the association does.  But how does that manifest itself and why is it so important?  A quick look through the calendar for the last month is quite illuminating and showcases the ways in which the OIA has been an active and effective participant in multiple collaborations.

The UK was very well represented at last month’s European Outdoor Summit in Malmö.  Not only were numerous OIA members among the 300+ delegates, but staff and members of our board were also there, networking with colleagues from across Europe, and engaging in workshops and discussions about some of the major issues, challenges and opportunities that face anyone who does business in our sector, wherever they are based.  As in previous years, the summit was characterised by some very open debates and the sharing of invaluable information about many pre-competitive topics.  As your trade association, we always absorb key insights at events like that, and then cascade them to our members and also use them to inform our own strategic planning.

Back on home turf, the UKActive (UKA) board met recently – our CEO Andrew Denton attended in his capacity as the representative of outdoor recreation on the UKA Council.  UKA is a very significant non-profit organisation with strong government links and a mission that is also close to our heart – ‘More People, More Active, More Often’. UKA engages with hundreds of organisations and tens of thousands of practitioners from a sports background and the inclusion of the OIA on its council has gone a long way to raising the profile of outdoor recreation as a viable alternative to traditional sports in solving the inactivity crisis.

Meanwhile, the OIA continues to work closely with Sport England, being a proactive, constructive voice for the outdoors.  Our approach has reaped rewards and, gradually, national policymaking has changed to reflect some of the important messages that we have been pushing consistently.  We are currently helping Sport England as the organisation prepares to launch a new This Girl Can campaign.  The outdoors will feature prominently in that initiative and the team behind the project will present it in more detail at the next OIA Conference in March 2019 (open for bookings soon!).

The outdoors is also a key driver of tourism in the UK and a significant section of our industry either relies on or benefits from it, directly and indirectly.  Less than a fortnight ago, the OIA attended the annual VisitBritain tourism update, during which Tourism Minister Michael Ellis outlined the Government’s vision for the future.  The event also showcased what appears to be good news for our sector – ‘staycations’ are up, adventure holidaying is a growth area, and more resource is being directed at coastal footpaths, National Park holidays, and grants to attract Europeans to walk, camp and explore Britain outside London.

The OIA has played a role in all of the above events and developments during the last month – now, one of our primary roles is to keep working with each organisation and join the dots, both between complementary projects and, crucially, to our members and the wider outdoor industry.  We are constantly striving to keep the profile of outdoor recreation as high as possible in every scenario and with every relevant minister, civil servant and arms-length public body, ensuring that our industry has a loud and genuinely influential voice.

In that ongoing spirit of collaboration, we have organised a special OIA Brexit Forum for the outdoor sector, on Thursday 8th November.  Hosted at the HQ of Merrell Europe in London, the event will be an opportunity to meet together, hear from – and debate with – leading figures from business (including experts from KPMG and the CBI), and learn from each other how we can individually and collectively deal with the challenges ahead.  Places at the event are limited – if you’re interested in attending, please email bookings@theoia.co.uk.

The Outdoor Industries Association team.