The UK outdoors industry sector is rich and diverse and the sector gains strength from this diversity. Differences between sub-sectors can be acknowledged, whilst emphasising the commonalities and synergies in this unique field. It has experienced excellent growth over the past five years and this pattern is expected to continue in the future.
The sector is usually defined by:
- the different outdoor adventurous activities that take place in the physical context;
- by the reason participants engage in these activities;
- the types of participants;
- the types of organisations / business models (including voluntary) that offer outdoors opportunities.
Photo courtesy MLTE/Andy Say
The Sector – A Picture
The sector has long been seen as having three primary sub-sectors:
- development training
It has been acknowledged that this is a starting point, and that other significant activities can be added to the mix. Expeditions, adventure tourism, adventure therapy and bushcraft have all seen substantial growth over the years.
Although 'divisions' do exist, the boundaries are very indistinct and in many cases substantially overlap. The imprecise boundary between sport and the outdoors is one example of this. Historically, the outdoors has been seen to be non-competitive activity.
Many different types of organisations operate in the sector (for example, commercial, public and not for profit) and the sector offers a diverse range of career pathways. Often, a person working in the sector will go from one type of outdoors provision to another as their experience, skills and qualifications develop.
- Estimates using known figures as a foundation suggest a potential total UK workforce figure of between 60,500 and 88,000;
- In 2004, gross value added output for the outdoors was £430 million;
- The sector has experienced growth above the national average (estimated to be tracking at 3.8% versus 2.8% for the whole economy for the five years to 2009).
The Sector's Value
The outdoors can deliver on a number of key national issues including:
- The health and wellbeing agenda
- The growing interest in the natural environment and its use
- 'Learning outside the classroom' developments
- Rural regeneration and jobs for young people in rural areas
- Understanding risk for children and young people
- Devolved policies relating to children's fulfilment of potential
This powerfully highlights the worth of the outdoors to new participants, customers and those within the legislatures across the UK. SkillsActive has produced a downloadable guide to the outdoors sector – The UK Outdoor Sector: A Guide.
The focus for SkillsActive is the outdoors sector and those organisations and individuals which provide a service to others in an outdoors context. Of course many millions of individuals are active in the outdoors on a personal basis as well.