News and blog posts, Uncategorized

After the pandemic – finding the way out(doors)

Right Lines Communications works with some brilliant outdoor brands, events and other organisations. Over the last year, we’ve continued to support these clients as, like us, they’ve grappled with the challenges presented by the pandemic. During that time, the various levels of restrictions have limited what people have been able to do, and where they have been able to do it, and that’s been really tough. However, one of the consequences of all of this is a marked increase in the public’s appreciation of the outdoors, and a greater appetite for getting active in nature. So what will all of this mean as we shake free from the shackles?

The good bit

The post-pandemic era will certainly provide opportunities for the outdoor sector. Last year, the European Outdoor Group and It’s Great Out There Coalition completed a big piece of consumer research in Europe’s seven biggest outdoor markets and the results were clear – citizens will want to get into the outdoors more than ever after (various degrees of) lockdown.

Furthermore, there’s a potential bonus for domestic tourism and the camping and caravanning sector. With ongoing uncertainty and nervousness about international travel, breaks (long and short) in outdoor locations closer to home are set to be very popular, continuing a pattern that we saw when restrictions eased for a while last summer. The fact that outdoor transmission of COVID appears to be minimal in most situations adds to the appeal of these types of holiday, especially in self-contained accommodation such as tents, campervans and caravans. Campsites and makers of the wide array of associated products will be optimistic, at least about their short to medium term prospects. Naturally, I hope that this is good news for the likes of Berghaus, Helinox and Whitby & Co!

The wrangling

Of course, even as freedoms open up again, it is pretty clear that some social distancing measures will endure in most settings (even if they aren’t mandatory, the public will have expectations and be cautious for a while). This will be of particular concern to events organisers. Depending on the type, size and setting of their gathering, they will have to adapt to both meet the most up to date legal requirements and, in order to realistically succeed, reassure attendees, suppliers, sponsors, exhibitors and volunteers. It’s all possible, but will be far from straightforward.

We also have to add in the fact that the events industry has taken an extremely severe hit from the pandemic, so getting back on its feet again in that context is going to be a big ask. On the plus side, this is a sector that is renowned for being phenomenally resourceful and for establishing what is possible, rather than what cannot be done. Our own events clients (such as Keswick Mountain Festival, Ourea Events and Events of the North) have demonstrated this time after time, and will do so again.

The crux and the future

We can now start to plan with some degree of confidence for a return to a semblance of normality. While never forgetting the devastation already caused to so many by the virus, I will allow myself and Right Lines to look ahead with that expectation, and an attitude that reflects it. This will be a different ‘normal’ (though now not particularly new!) and it still feels like the invoice for 2020 has not yet arrived. However, we’ve got to remain positive and proactive – we’ve managed to get this far without falling over and it would be a real shame to lose our footing now.

I look at the outdoor trade and note how important collaboration has been during the last 12 months. This is a sector that has always been prepared to cooperate in many ways and that was put into sharp focus throughout the crisis. I am proud to be part of an industry in which individuals, businesses and other organisations have supported each other (in the main) from the very outset. That has manifested itself in countless ways. There are too many to list here and actually, we now all need to focus on the future and the way out(doors) from the pandemic.

Typically, that work is already well underway on various fronts, such as the following three.

  1. In the UK, the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) has organised an online workshop, ‘Getting active outdoors again safely’, for Tuesday 11th March. At the event, the OIA will present the findings of a report called ‘GET OUTSIDE! Activity in a time of COVID-19’, that it has produced with funding from Sport England and support from Ordnance Survey. The event will outline how the report can be used to support planning for the responsible, safe and sustainable re-opening of the outdoors as restrictions are relaxed. The event is aimed at outdoor businesses and you can book a place by emailing bookings@theoia.co.uk.
  2. Like the OIA, the European Outdoor Group (EOG) has been keeping its members and the wider industry updated about all relevant developments during the pandemic. The EOG continues to do that and recently published the latest news from its market research programme. As well as highlighting impacts on the trade in 2020, the analysis of data has also provided some valuable insights into prospects for 2021, including activities and product categories that have the greatest potential to perform well. There’s a great summary on the EOG website HERE.
  3. Meanwhile, the task of helping people across Europe to get active outdoors is also being addressed, particularly by individual companies and by organisations like the It’s Great Out There Coalition. The #itsgreatoutthere campaign is more relevant and resonant than ever, and the team has adapted its approach. Still focusing on inspiring new participants to try outdoor activities, from this year the coalition will put even greater emphasis on helping people to explore nature in a way that is responsible and sustainable. In that context, four years after the coalition’s foundation, a new phase of #itsgreatoutthere is being spearheaded by the launch of Outdoor Activity Days. This new concept will allow more companies, other organisations and individuals to get actively involved in the campaign. Crucially, it will deliver clear and measurable results that highlight the impact of every contribution, all firmly aligned with the World Health Organization’s latest guidelines for physical activity. The #itsgreatoutthere Outdoor Activity Days will be launched publicly at 12:00 CET on Wednesday 24th February. If you’re interested, you can attend via Zoom by registering HERE. Find out more about the coalition and its work HERE.

We cannot kid ourselves that COVID is about to disappear, but we can now at least contemplate a path through a post-pandemic landscape and of all the industries that I know, I believe that the outdoor sector is as well prepared as any to stride out with confidence. As colleagues have pointed out, we’ve ‘bounced back’ before (is it really 20 years since the last major foot-and-mouth disease crisis in the UK?) – and we’ll do it again.

Chris.

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