Government support for Outdoor Industries

Government support for Outdoor Industries

The Government has publicly voiced its support for Britain on Foot, providing a timely boost ahead of the campaign’s public launch in May. During a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 5 February, Hugh Robertson MP, Minister of State in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport made the statement in his response to a speech by David Rutley MP about the value of the outdoor economy to the UK.

Britain on Foot (BoF) is a campaign that is designed to get the people of Britain fitter, healthier and happier by encouraging them to participate in outdoor activities. It is being led by the Outdoor Industries Association, with support from the British Mountaineering Council, The Ramblers and many individual businesses and organisations that operate in the outdoor sector. As co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Mountaineering, David Rutley has been raising the profile of BoF in Westminster and was instrumental in securing the speech and debate.

During the debate, Hugh Robertson stated:
“My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield [David Rutley] will be pleased to hear that it [the Department for Culture, Media and Sport] is entirely supportive of the aims of the Britain on Foot campaign, as they align with increasing activity in the great outdoors and the subsequent economic benefit for tourism businesses. VisitEngland recognises the connection between increased outdoor activity-related tourism and increased sales of outdoor clothing and equipment. The agenda of the Outdoor Industries Association and Britain on Foot is very much aligned with VisitEngland’s strategic framework for tourism in England. Its focus on modernising the rural offering and getting younger people in particular interested in outdoor experiences will ultimately benefit the rural economy.”

Hugh Robertson subsequently agreed to meet with the individuals and organisations leading Britain on Foot and assured the House that the campaign will be given full support.

The Minister concluded:
“…the Government recognise entirely the important role that informal outdoor activity and sport-related activity play in supporting tourism and the health and well-being agendas. There is a unique opportunity to market this country, and we have seen the effects already, with an increase in visitor numbers post-2012. The hon. Gentleman and others can be assured that outdoor pursuits will play a key part in that process.”

The OIA is working closely with the BMC and The Ramblers in taking forward the Britain on Foot campaign. That partnership will continue, to ensure that the commitments made in parliament translate into tangible action. As well as meeting with Hugh Robertson, the Britain on Foot team will liaise closely with VisitEngland and other national tourism, sport and health bodies, to build the momentum behind BoF and deliver a high profile launch in May, and a major, national sustained campaign.

Andrew Denton, chief executive of the OIA, comments:
“At a national political level, this was probably the most significant moment for the outdoor industries in several generations. Our trade, and the activities that it supports, serves and develops, is now firmly on the Westminster agenda. The contribution that the outdoor sector makes to the tourism and rural economies has been unambiguously and publicly acknowledged and the Government has clearly stated that Britain on Foot will be supported. We will continue to work very hard to make sure of that.

“It is absolutely vital that as an industry, we now seize this opportunity and together deliver a far reaching, long lasting campaign under the Britain on Foot banner. I urge companies to register on www.britainonfoot.co.uk and to get started on their own marketing plans for the campaign. The full BoF website will go live on 1 March and we need more contributors with plans and ideas to share! We can all play a role in a project that has the potential to not only benefit everyone operating in our sector, but also make the whole nation healthier and happier.”

David Rutley MP adds:
“Outdoor pursuits play an important role in getting people off the sofa and into our wonderful countryside. The benefits are clear to see: increased participation in sports related activity and the associated health and wellbeing benefits. There are also real economic benefits in terms of tourism, which is so important to our rural communities.

“The Britain on Foot campaign will help many more people get active and I fully support its aims. It is good to see voluntary groups, businesses and the Government giving it their full backing.”

A full transcript of David Rutley’s speech and the debate can be found here.

To register an interest and receive regular Britain on Foot updates and news, and to request a BoF Guide Book, email bof@theoia.co.uk, visit www.britainonfoot.co.uk or follow @BritainonFoot on Twitter. To find out more about the work of the Outdoor Industries Association visit www.thoia.co.uk, email info@theoia.co.uk or call 01539 445 558.