Outdoor Industries Association Blog

Archive for the ‘Legislation and lobbying’ Category

Britain on Foot – The OIA’s Calling Card to Government

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

So is Britain getting back on its feet?

This is an update on the progress we at the OIA are making with our political campaigning work – all under the banner ‘Britain on Foot’. You remember that? Well, the campaign is progressing with strength. I want to start by clarifying what a campaign is, specifically this one – it’s the industry’s calling card to government and the nation. By aligning our OIA goal to sell more outdoor kit with a clear, not-for-profit goal to ‘Get Britain Active Outdoors’, we open many, many more doors.

BOF Logo CMYK FinalBoF is a call to action to get the British public fitter, healthier and happier in the great outdoors. Two years ago, the OIA had no political engagement, zero! Since then, the team has built a campaign, brought together a network of contacts, and built the profile of Outdoor Activity to cabinet level. BoF is now discussed in Number 10, in both houses of Parliament, in National Health strategy meetings, in a Parliamentary Commission on Physical Activity, with all concerned being most supportive of the campaign.

With a long way still to go, however, the OIA needs support to encourage the nation to get active and make the most of what the Great Outdoors has to offer, increasing participation and ultimately boosting industry sales. A number of supporters (www.britainonfoot.co.uk/supporters) have generously provided financial assistance to the campaign, but there are many other ways in which EVERYONE can get involved and help to promote the campaign, from displaying stickers in car/shop windows to adding the logo and a link to web pages and spreading the word via social media.  

So what success has there been recently?  

We’ve been very busy and have achieved some great results. I hope you’ve seen a lot of the increased activity around Physical Activity recently in the media, especially in the last month, when two major reports were published that we’ve been closely involved with: 

1) The Natural England conference – ‘Outdoors for Everyone’, which BoF sponsored. This report was prepared following a national conference by the University College London, and has had wide government distribution. Basically, the paper continues to promote the case for using the Outdoor Recreation environment for tackling health issues. 

2) The Public Health England (PHE) framework for Physical Activity, ‘Everybody Active, Every Day’, was launched with a huge commitment from government to invest in prevention, with the costs of a ‘cure’ spiralling out of control on the NHS. You may have seen headlines in the papers talking about ‘paying you to stay fit’ – a media twist and sensationalism on exactly the direction health is going. There is only one feasible solution for the issues in the UK today – we need to get the nation more active. The UK is the least active nation in Europe – 63% is physically ‘inactive’ – compared to only 18% in Holland, 28% in Germany, even the USA has only a 40% inactive population!

So, there is a huge need – financially, morally, health strategy wise – to ‘Get Britain on its Feet’, and when that happens, the Outdoor Recreation market needs to be ready and willing to take those new customers. To that end, we are working closely with Sport, Tourism and Health departments and are right now working at Ministerial level on a National Strategy for Outdoor Recreation. We are just at the very beginning of this, but if it is successful it will mean “outdoor” featuring in a Strategic Government plan for the first time, and could be the real beginning of change for the industry. 

This is the core of what we do on the campaign side – engage, promote, represent, keep up the pressure that Britain has stopped moving, offer Outdoor Recreation as a solution, and pressure as many departments and partner organisations as we can to build and promote the outdoors – it’s a long journey, but one we are tackling at speed, with greater and better results being achieved as we go along, and the outdoors is at the heart of that journey. 

None of this would have been possible without the support of OIA members and BoF’s First Funders, so a continued big thank you to you all – together we can raise the profile, build the outdoors, save the health of the nation and grow our industry.

Andrew Denton

Why should the outdoor industry care about the Government re-shuffle?

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

17.10.12 Number 10One of the most important roles that the OIA undertakes on behalf of the industry is lobbying government – representing the views and acting in the best interests of outdoor businesses of all shapes and sizes throughout the country.  As you can imagine, it’s also one of the most complex and challenging areas of work that I’m involved in.  In truth, it can be really frustrating at times.  The world of Westminster can be extremely difficult to navigate around and finding the right route can be tough as when we do feel we’re making good progress with one department or Minister, suddenly a Cabinet re-shuffle can mean starting all over again.

So, it was with some trepidation that I contemplated the recent re-shuffle.  On the day that the details were announced, I was in regular ’phone contact with the BMC and the Ramblers.  We were all waiting to hear the news, wondering if relationships we’d built up would be tossed away again – 14 months ago, we ‘lost’ two senior Ministers whom we had worked hard to court.  On the same day, I spoke to a senior director in the outdoor trade and they didn’t even know a re-shuffle was planned, which got me wondering how much the industry knows about the increasing political lobbying work that we are doing at the OIA, and why we are doing it.

Lobbying – interacting with political parties – is insurance work.  We spend a huge amount of effort and time to get the smallest of connections and communications, so that, should the day ever come, we can pick up the ’phone, and not be in a position of fighting a rear guard action.

In 2001 our industry, and the whole tourism industry, was decimated by the foot and mouth disease outbreak.  What made things infinitely worse was the total lack of any channels of communication from the recreational economy, when compared to the huge influence that the ‘big farming’ lobby had (and still has) with government.  It took months for people to realise that, economically speaking, the negative tourism and outdoor recreational impact on the countryside was far worse than the direct foot and mouth impact on farming.  The science was not good and there were other ways of dealing with the issue, but by then it was too late – businesses and families were destroyed and our trade was on its knees.  The lack of a co-ordinated, sustained outdoor lobby cost us all dear.

Back to the present – who are we talking to? The OIA seeks to engage across all government departments, but especially in four areas:

  • Tourism
  • Health
  • Sport
  • Environment.

Tourism and Sport are a joint portfolio, which has now been handed to Helen Grant, working for Maria Miller at the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) – we have a strong contact with Maria and have already congratulated Helen on her appointment.  We will seek to raise awareness of the outdoor sector, its vital importance to tourism outside London, highlight the importance of recreational activity, and press the case for it to be considered, and so funded, as sport.

In Health, Jane Ellison has joined as Public Health Minister – she has walked the Coast to Coast and the Pennine Way, so we are hoping for a friend there!  We have a strong message that informal recreational activity in the outdoors is a far better solution than formal sport to achieve the Chief Medical Officer’s health targets.  As the UK is the least active nation in Europe, the Government shares a common goal with the OIA – to ‘get more people active outdoors!’.  So we will push our message hard here.

And finally, working with the National Parks, the Ramblers and BMC, we will talk to the new Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Minister George Eustace about access, the coastal foot path, rights of way access and the continued funding and protection of our wild places.

So, in answer to the question of why the re-shuffle should be of interest to the trade, it means everything to us.  We have to be engaged at Westminster, talking to government, ready to fight our cause, stand up for our industry, point out how much we offer of value to the country, and ask for support, funding and long term legislation to encourage more of the general public to get more active outdoors, more often!

Andrew Denton
Outdoor Industries Association

Climbing the hill of influence at Westminster

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

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.

Using the Olympics and Paralympics to create a legacy for the outdoor industry

Friday, June 15th, 2012

If the blanket media coverage for the Olympic Torch relay is any indication, there is only really going to be one story in town for a while come the end of July.  Excitement about the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is building at a rate of knots and we’re set for quite a crescendo.  In all of this storm of media content, it is interesting to note that the organisers of the relay and the opening ceremony appear to be very aware of the importance of the outdoors to Great Britain’s society and culture.

We already witnessed Sir Chris Bonington taking the Olympic Torch to the summit of Snowdon as one of iconic moments of the relay, and this week, details emerged of plans for a very outdoors themed opening ceremony.  Film director Danny Boyle revealed a vision that will see the Olympic Stadium transformed into a “British meadow”.  Whether we like Boyle’s idea or not, what is clear is that he has recognised that the British outdoors is something that should be front and centre when showcasing the country to its own people and to the rest of the world.

So, although competition climbing hasn’t yet made it into the Olympic programme, the outdoors is playing a key role in the global picture that will be painted of our country this summer.  That has to be good news for the outdoor industry, but it will only be of lasting benefit to us if we build our own legacy on the back of it.  Every company and organisation in our sector can, and should, play their own role in that, and the OIA is already working hard to lead on behalf of the industry.

We are continuing our efforts to engage with government and push the outdoors agenda on the national political stage.  We are building a coalition of individuals and organisations who share our ambition, including influential politicians at ministerial level.  We will all work together to raise the profile of the outdoors, encouraging more of the British people to go outside and explore the wonderful countryside and coastline that surrounds them.  It is in this context that the momentum behind our planned ‘Britain on Foot’ campaign is gathering real pace, but we still have much work to do.  The additional awareness of the UK’s outdoor assets that the Olympics is generating can really help, but only as long as we all use it as leverage to further our cause.

Please join the OIA in helping to make that desired legacy a reality.  If you, or your company, is an association member, get involved in our many initiatives.  If you are not a member, join today and become part of a very special project that has the potential to benefit the whole outdoor sector in the UK, and indeed the wider population as well.

Andrew Denton,

Chief executive,

The Outdoor Industries Association.

Spending Review Cuts

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

As an industry, we should be concerned at the intention to close the Adventure Activities Licensing Service, which was brought into being to safeguard all – and especially young people, using external centres/organisations for adventure activities, following the Lyme Bay disaster.
The opportunities to utilise such places of  adventurous learning, safely, whether in youth or business groups, or individually, are part of the life style making/challenging ethos upon which our industry depends and hopefully, thrives.

Please can we lobby for the AALS to be retained to ensure that such places, whether local authority or company owned and managed, provide a safe environment in which “the great outdoors” can remain both a learning and challenging growth experience.

by Keith Rugg, Keith Rugg Consultancy