It has been a tough decade for most businesses and the Outdoor Industry has fared no differently. With less budgets to spend families cut back on purchasing and activities. Schools, businesses, individuals and youth clubs all have less money to spend and have to keep budgets tight. This is expected and understandable, but far from ideal as people dont get to experience the great outdoors and its enlivening / recuperating effects. Many Outdoor centres were forced to close during the recession and others had to downsize to stay viable. However now we are constantly being told how well the country is doing, business is booming and times are great, even if many of us dont see extra cash in our pocket. At the very least though we could expect the industry to stabilise and business to slowly start expanding, good for employment and great for the general population with more opportunities to get out and active and facilities improving.
It is with great sadness that we learnt of the recent demise of Outdoor Centres in Nothern Ireland. 3 OEC’s in County Down – Killowen, Delamont, Ardnabannon and 1 in Bushmills have recently been closed by the Education Authority. Whilst these could be viewed as potential competitors to ourselves this would be missing the point. These are fantastic facilities for kids from all backgrounds to get active, meet new friends, learn new skills and have fun. More and more research is telling us about the benefits of Outdoor Education, especially for children, so its sad to hear about Outdoor Centres closing down. They are a massive loss to the community and there was massive public protest about them being closed down.
The South hasnt been spared from closures either. Whilst these closures appear more to do with leasing and contractual issues, again they are a sad reflection on the industry and local government. Blackwater Outdoor Activities in Cork has been closed for some time now, due to ‘lease arrangements’ a sad loss for the Munster region and adventure industry. More recently we have seen the closure of Muckno Adventure in Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, a fantastic resource for the local area that were again unable to secure a long term lease from the Monaghan County Council. Whilst again they could be viewed as competitors to ourselves, every facility is important and provides an important service. Think about the kids and families that would have visited them this summer and developed a love for the great outdoors. Think about the schools and youth groups, hen parties and stag parties, birthdays and special occasions that will be missing out. A bit like the Education Authority in the North it’s very short sighted on the part of Monaghan County Council. We are all separate businesses trying to make money at the end of the day, but as an industry we aim to make positive impact on society and help individuals improve their health, positivity, skills and outlook. This needs to be encouraged and supported by politicians and government. Activity Centres are far more than just Outdoor Adventure Centres, they are great reasons to get out and active, get positive and enjoy life without technology. A doctor on radio recently told the story of how he had directed ten people with depression to go for walks every evening for a month before he would give them drugs. None of them returned looking for drugs after the month had passed. Whilst this isnt possible in every single case it offers a little insight into the importance of activity for the human spirit and is just one reason that we love what we do. We wish the other Activity Centres well and hope circumstances improve for them. For everyone else – get out and get high!