Getting Active Outdoors Workshop – report

On Wednesday 11th November I and several members of the ABC Management Committee – together with around 30 other interested parties from all aspects of the Mountaineering community attended a workshop at the BMC Offices to present the recently undertaken Outdoor Industries Association’s report on the Outdoor Sector.

Presented by a team including the ABCTT’s very own Martin Chester – this Mountaineering sector specific presentation was a six hour snap shot of a 128 page report – the first of it’s kind – that seeks to analyse the demand & provision of outdoor activities and the make up and motivation of the people who take part – and vitally who could take part in the activities our industry is involved with.

Everyone I spoke to – from Walls to Retailers to Clubs all thought it was one of the most thought provoking and insightful sessions they’ve ever been to – at the end of this post I’ve put a couple of links – but I’ve also written up a brief synopsis below:


We started with a look at how many people* (population over 16) there are – who are active, who enjoys the outdoors, who’s active in the outdoors &, vitally, who would like to be both more active – or get into outdoor activities for the first time. Very quickly it became apparent that there’s still a potentially huge market for outdoor activities.

  • – a survey of approx 8,500 was used in conjunction with existing data on another 5,000


WE got a really good understanding of what people are doing in the outdoors (it is worth noting here that Mountaineering is the Sport England grouping that we fall into) – but this quickly led into a recognition that very very few people do just one activity – participants (11,000+) were asked to self declare a main and other activities – on average people listed four – so a climber might say that climbing was their main activity – but they also walk, paddle & ride.

We looked at the life cycle of participation – a pattern most of us will be aware of from our own habits or those we’ve observed.


One of the key areas that the report investigated at length – was the actual motivations that people have for being active outdoors (we’ve previously had a little data on the who, where & when – but we’ve never had any on the why)  – we spent a while talking through the profiling models (more details in the links below) – but it was an interactive process which we all trialled on ourselves and agreed with. Vitally it’s a simple to use model that can be used to look at your own customers, non customers – and your organisation.  As with any subjective model – there’s no right or wrong – and people will and do drift in and out of categories at different times, activities or social groups – but by being able to recognise this then everyone who tried the modelling tool agreed – it was a robust way to gain a picture of where we stand & where we could be – both individually and as organisations.


From this the team identified 8 main participant types – and again these were thoroughly analysed – whilst differences amongst some groups were obvious – for others it was a subtle shift in requirement – but one that a good understanding of could offer big rewards for – if you’re marketing your wall to Thrill Seekers for example – then it’s worth knowing that they only account for 3% of the outdoor market.

It was also interesting to see that the same individual can fall into different categories at different times and for different activities – thus for multi activity centres there’s a diverse range of cross-over possible – the competent climber is unlikely to require the same offering as the novice paddler – even though they are the same individual. A parent may want a wholly different set of requirements when they climb as an individual compared to when they bring the kids – so an understanding of the participant can be used to create a better, more utilised, end product.


By applying an understanding of Why to the Who, Where & When & the report has been able to show vast opportunities that exist for the provision of Outdoor Activities – simple statistics showing that 80% of the population live in towns & cities caters well for Indoor climbing – but added to the knowledge that lack of time, weather & transport (just 3 examples) are all seen as reasons not to participate – then a picture of the benefits we offer to current non climbers can better be tailored to meet their needs.


Obviously there is now a lot of scope for us to analyse the Indoor Climbing sector using the tools and methodology laid out in this report – to see where we are above and behind the curve – and to make our industry a leader in this sector.

I hope this report has given you a (very) brief feel for the information supplied – I’ve put links to both a 4 page summary & the full report below – it could well be the most interesting thing you read this year.