A group of organisations in the north-east is targeting sustainable growth in adventure tourism as part of a long-term economic recovery plan for the area’s tourist industry.
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 the sector in the region over the next five to 10 years.
The initiative, which is also being supported by tourism body VisitAberdeenshire, aims to encourage more visitors to stay in the region longer because of the range and quality of adventure opportunities on offer.
It will focus on the delivery of projects for new land-based and coastal activities, creating events and marketing the area as a leading UK adventure sports destination.
Before the 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 the north-east.
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.
The organisations predict the successful development of the sector to 2030 could create a further 500 full-time equivalent jobs and secure an additional £120m-£160m in visitor spend.
Work with businesses and stakeholders in recent years, led by One, identified opportunities to build on the region’s natural assets and adventure tourism.
The steering group is working on a detailed business case to secure funding to invest in the project with the aim of realising the region’s full potential in the sector.
The partners have committed project funding of almost £150,000 for the next 12 months.
A project co-ordinator with extensive industry experience, Will Clarke, has been appointed.
Mr Clarke was previously Aberdeenshire mountain bike development co-ordinator.
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.
She continued: “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.”