The debate was sparked by Reconomics, a report by the Sport and Recreation Alliance and Liverpool John Moores University on the economic impact of outdoor recreation. It found that outdoor recreation – including activities like walking, cycling, sailing and fishing – is the nation’s favourite pastime, generating £21bn for the economy.
The Alliance also calculated that 37% of all domestic trips made in the UK included an element of outdoor recreation, putting more than £10bn into the tourism economy.
During the debate, David Rutley MP, made it clear why getting outdoor recreation policy right was so important.
“We have already heard about the important report, Reconomics, which is being taken forward by the Sport and Recreation Alliance. Figures have already been put forward, but one thing that amazed me was that the visitor spend associated with outdoor activities is £21 billion across the nation.
“That is a huge opportunity and more can follow, if we get it right. One tremendous quote from that incredible report states that the outdoors are:
“A vast blue and green gym with no membership fee, and a sporting arena like no other.” How true!”
The debate, called for by Huw Irranca-Davies MP following meetings with the Alliance, prompted the sports minister to acknowledge the unusual cross-departmental nature of outdoor recreation.
Flagging its importance in tackling the physical activity crisis, she also said that she would consider how a range of outdoor recreations were captured by Sport England’s Active People Survey, the poll which measures sports participation across England.
The Minister for Sport, Helen Grant MP, also praised the contribution made by the Alliance’s Reconomics report to the debate.
“The hon. Member for Ogmore (David Rutley MP), the shadow Minister (Clive Efford MP) and others referred to the Reconomics report and I agree that it is very good and detailed. In a good way, it pulls together existing research. Sport England and VisitEngland will certainly build on the various reports."
Emma Boggis, Chief Executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, said the debate could mark a turning point for the way that outdoor recreation is viewed by policy-makers.
“It’s very encouraging that the Government recognises the importance of outdoor recreation, not just for our health and wellbeing, but also for our economy. A strategy which joins up government thinking on outdoor issues would really cement outdoor activity as our favourite pastime.
“There’s lots that ministers can do to support growth here and we’re keen to work with the Government to explore how we can get more people active outdoors. The door is now open to that and we look forward to seeing what progress we can make together.“