Outdoor Industries Association Blog

Climbing the hill of influence at Westminster

The outdoor industry is finally starting to get noticed at Westminster.  That at least is the conclusion that I have drawn from my latest meeting in the Houses of Parliament.  By being persistent over a prolonged period of time, by making connections and then developing relationships with the right people and by going armed with compelling data about the value of our industry to UK plc, I have been able to get my muddy boot firmly in the door.

OIA in Westminster

Recently there was another significant moment, when I met with John Penrose MP, Minister for Tourism.  He was genuinely engaged and interested in our work and acknowledged that some of the areas in which the OIA works and campaigns fit in well with the Government’s agenda.  In particular, these are: de-centralising the focus of tourism from just London and raising awareness of the wider potential across the UK; improving recognition, interest and visits to the British countryside by foreign visitors; ‘weatherproofing’ the tourist industry, and encouraging people to visit and participate in the UK, regardless of the weather (within reason!).

I was given the opportunity to present to Mr Penrose about the importance and value of the outdoors to the wider economy.  The minister was both impressed and surprised by how large a part of the overall tourism industry the outdoor sector actually is; encouragingly, he was reasonably aware of what constitutes ‘outdoor’ and enthused about how much Brits enjoy adventure and activities like camping and caravanning, walking and climbing.

This meeting was also my chance to introduce Britain on Foot to an influential figure within government.  I am delighted to report that Mr Penrose was supportive and has agreed to speak about the importance of the outdoor economy at our planned launch event on October 24th.  He has also agreed to host a forum at Westminster in 2013, similar to that which David Rutley MP hosted in May this year and which proved to be such a success.  Finally, and possibly most significantly, the minister will help us to secure a meeting with Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport Jeremy Hunt and Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson after the Olympics (depending on any cabinet re-shuffle in September!).

All of this is significant and represents progress, but it is still just the start.  Rather than sit back in self satisfaction, we now need to work even harder to cement and build the relationships that we have initiated, and make sure that Britain on Foot is ultimately given support that amounts to more than supportive words, very welcome though those are.

Andrew Denton,
Chief executive,
The Outdoor Industries Association.

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