Access to Adventure is a new holiday company, based in Rosyth. It is also unusual.
Its business plan contains core values such as inclusivity, a non-judgmental, non-critical, supportive and praising culture, raising feelings of self-achievement and worth, exceeding expectations relating to participants’ achievements, and support for the entire journey from first contact. What is going on?
Steve Callaghan, the managing director, explains. His aim is to provide inclusive countryside adventures, adapted so that a family or a group of friends, with one or more disabled group member, all enjoy the same rewarding experience.
This requires a lot of logistical planning; this is the service which Steve aims to provide. He is vetting a range of accommodation providers across Scotland to discover those that offer accessible accommodation in their public rooms and at least some of their bedrooms, to suit his target market.
Then he is exploring partnerships with countryside activity providers who can adapt activities to suit a range of disabilities, especially if Access to Adventure can supply some adapted kit on the day for those participants requiring it. He does not believe he should have any competitors, as he sees them all as potential partners.
He can’t see why he should reinvent the wheel and encroach on others’ territory, when providers can all work together to satisfy this large and growing market.
He is delighted that Scotland contains fantastic adventure tourism providers, with great facilities and operating in some of Europe’s most spectacular countryside. He sees the role of his company as working with clients and providers to create bespoke holidays majoring on countryside adventures, where everyone can get involved.
Inevitably there are gaps in current provision, either where accessible adventures are unavailable, or where activities are oversubscribed. This is where the next stage of Steve’s plan kicks in. He has joined the Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme and is starting to recruit Armed Forces veterans and reservists as activity leaders.
He points out that they come with relevant skills and the perfect “can do” approach to adapting countryside activities to suit as wide a range of people as is both possible and practical.
Steve recently left the role of assistant director, countryside and islands, with National Trust for Scotland. He cannot speak highly enough of their fantastic countryside sites and the staff who work at them. He cites such iconic locations as Glencoe, Torridon, Kintail, Ben Lomond, Ben Lawers, Iona, Canna, Goat Fell, Threave and Mar Lodge, among many others, and says he looks forward to using these sites as well as other large estates in private hands or managed by Forest Enterprise Scotland.
In gathering statistics for his start-up business plan, Steve was amazed by the size of the disabled market. 11.6m people in the UK are known to be disabled and currently only about 2million say they go on holiday. The remaining 9.6million don’t take holidays, citing their reasons for not doing so as people’s attitude first and foremost, followed by a lack of information to help them with their planning, with actual accessible provision coming third.
As Steve has discovered, just as domestic and day visits only into Scotland, the disabled traveller market is worth over £1billion annually. However, as he is quick to point out, this commercial fact comes very much second to how society is failing to support its disabled members in having as enjoyable a time in the countryside as everyone else. Turning this around is his personal mission for the next decade, he says.
Steve’s business is starting small, inevitably, but he hopes that it will grow naturally and sensibly, expanding with demand. Right now, he is offering a broad range of activities for 2017 on the company website, which can be combined into full holidays, with accommodation or offered as half or full day stand-alone activities and he is working hard at developing partnerships with accommodation and activity providers. There are gift vouchers available at a range of values as ideal Christmas presents and Steve is offering carers a 50% discount for the adventure activities for the whole of 2017.
As the saying goes, quite appropriate for the nature of Steve’s business, mighty oaks from little acorns grow.