I have been involved in the outdoors from a young age. Having grown up in the industry and seen its development and growth through the years I think an organised association of adventurer providers is needed to help showcase the impact we have on tourism in Ireland. With over 8 million visitors last year into the country we are a vital part of what they do when they arrive. Despite this we get very little recognition from the government, county councils or other state bodies.
In our own business we have up to 50 employees in a very remote part of the west coast of Ireland, without it the local area would be suffering. Most of us run tourism/adventure businesses in rural parts of the country and provide local employment in out of the way locations. The aim of the IAAT, in my eyes, is to be our voice at the table to try and put forward how important we are to the economy and wellbeing of Ireland. In America they have done studies which put the value of outdoor recreation at 3% of GDP, this is a huge figure which translates into billions of dollars of tax revenue, jobs etc. In Ireland we are still seen as an inconvenient industry which is hard to measure and too small to make any difference.
We face many challenges as an industry such as Farmers controlling all access to the land and are becoming increasingly hostile to people walking in the hills as they have done for decades. Additionally, all of our measurement metrics are on hotel nights which doesn’t take into account the benefit both financial and marketing wise which we accrue. As part of the membership you will be required to fill in a bi monthly survey which will give us the information and tools to talk to government departments in their language. In the long run we would like to commission a report on the impact of the outdoor industry, financially and otherwise, to the nation.
If we want to be taken seriously as an industry then we need to organise on a professional manner so we can fight these big battles on a national level. A lot of us have time over the winter when we are quiet but then the summer comes around and we have to go back to the day job and are too busy to worry about the bigger picture. Hence we founded the IAAT which will have a full time employee to fight our corner 12 months a year. Mike Jones has been employed and he is tasked with setting up and growing the IAAT. The more people who come and join us the better we will be able to represent the needs and desires of the industry.
I am excited to see where we can take this organisation and to see if we can make a difference. We have committed along with the other founder members to give it two years of seed funding as we see the benefit to the adventure community as a whole.