The Growth of Adventure Tourism

Launched in 2012, Tourism Scotland 2020 (TS2020) put forward an ambitious project to grow visitor spending in Scotland by £1bn by the year 2020. The publication highlights a number of areas with the potential for growth across the proposed eight-year timeline, including expanding Scotland’s reach to such markets as India and Brazil, improving technological accessibility, and the adventure tourism sector.

The success of the latter, understood as activities featuring the natural environment as their focal point, has grown exponentially since the TS2020’s publication. Comprising activities like mountain biking, walking, wildlife watching, and snow sports, the global adventure tourism sector rose in value by 195% to $263bn from 2010 to 2013, while the value of British adventure tourism is expected to increase in value to £3.5bn over the next three years.

In Scotland, too, adventure tourism already provides over 3,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and is one of the most dynamic offshoots of the country’s world-leading tourist industry. Only recently, Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) announced the signing of a new agreement with four European partners designed to promote the growth of the sector in Scotland and Europe, while plans are underway in Aberdeenshire to invest £10m into the construction of a multi-activity mountain bike park.

Both projects will focus on promoting the sustainable development of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ adventure tourism, building solid structural foundations to enhance the sector’s potential for longevity. It is to this end that the Adventure Tourism Innovation Partnerships Projects (AVIP) signed by Lochaber Chamber of Commerce and UHI – linking Scotland with relevant authorities in Ireland, Estonia, Bulgaria, and Denmark – seeks to train and educate those wishing to work in the sector.

Adventure tourism is also recognised as a key player in the industry’s effort to promote the ecological expansion of tourism into smaller regional areas. At present, Scotland’s main adventure tourist hubs are Aviemore and Fort William, Oban, Blairgowrie, and Ballater, among others. Given that the sector depends so heavily on the quality of the country’s natural assets, investing in environmentally sustainable practices is in the interests of tour operators and activity providers. As the only ISO14001 certified DMC in the UK, this particular mission is one which Experience Scotland is especially passionate about.

Coming off the back of a record-breaking year for Historic Scotland and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the accelerated progress of adventure tourism provides further cause for optimism, and is an encouraging sign that, moving into 2018, Scotland’s tourism industry can continue to perform at the highest level.

Image: Pixabay: Sunrise in the Scottish Highlands