Wales Adventure Tourism Organisation (WATO) (including SWOAPG) has in partnership with Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum (PCF) conducted extensive research to explore the socio-economic value of outdoor activities in Wales. The study, entitled Economic and Social Evaluation of the Outdoor Activity Sector in Wales was undertaken by Miller Research and funded by the Welsh Government Coastal Capacity Building Challenge Fund.
This comprehensive survey, involving more than 600 individuals and businesses in spring 2023, identified significant growth in Wales’ outdoor activity sector over the past decade. The primary objectives of the study were to reassess the economic influence of the adventure activity sector and evaluate the social value of these activities. The research also aimed to establish a contemporary benchmark of their socio-economic value to facilitate strategic planning for adventure tourism.
According to the results, an astounding 94% of visitors expressed immense satisfaction with their outdoor experiences in Wales, demonstrating a robust willingness to return and recommend the country as an adventure hotspot.
Outdoor activities contribute substantially to Wales’ economy, with a net annual economic impact of £272.87 million. Of this, £205 million remains within the country, emphasising the sector’s fundamental role in bolstering the local economy. In totality, including all participating individuals in commercially-led and self-led adventures, the annual net impact on the Welsh economy reaches an impressive £1.6 billion, supporting an estimated 31,000 jobs, which represent approximately 21% of all tourism-related jobs in Wales.
Interestingly, the study revealed a transformation in the motivation for partaking in outdoor activities, with mental health and well-being becoming the primary drivers. An overwhelming 94% of respondents rated these aspects as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important in their decision to participate. The value of outdoor activities to mental health in Wales has been estimated at a significant £26.5 million, with a wider value of £47.5 million to the UK.
Considering the potent socio-economic benefits of outdoor activities in Wales, efforts to boost participation could be rewarding. As per a model developed by Sport England, a 10% rise in participation could generate a social value increase of £187 million, benefiting physical and mental health, individual development, and social capital. An avenue to realise this potential could be through the implementation of the Outdoor Education Wales Bill, promising a surge of an estimated £9.9m-£13.6m additional annual spend with activity providers and offering an invaluable opportunity to expose all children in Wales to the advantages of outdoor activities.
PCF and WATO, with the support of key stakeholders, would like to harness these insights to devise a strategic plan for adventure tourism, aimed at further enhancing the contribution of outdoor activities and the adventure activity sector to a flourishing and healthy Wales.