From mountain biking to white water rafting, Scotland has a whole host of daring pursuits on its doorstep. The adventure tourism sector is now seen as a future growth area for the industry as people look to the great outdoors while navigating our way through Covid restrictions.

Figures for 2019 showed domestic overnight visitors took 290,000 trips where adventure sports were part of that trip contributing £112 million in expenditure, according to the Great British Tourism Survey.

Other activities that were part of a trip included 166,000 mountain biking trips and 193,000 road cycling trips.

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Walking and hiking were the most popular activities with 1.6 million trips involving a long walk, hike or ramble of more than two miles and 2.7 million trips involving a short walk or stroll.

Now the sector is hoping to build on its success at the same time as looking to stride forward and put itself in the limelight. It is why adventure tourism operators and visitor organisations have come up with the inaugural Adventure Tourism Week from November 16 to 22 to catapult it to a new audience.

Douglas McAdam, Wild Scotland Executive chairman, said: “We are blessed in Scotland with some of the most impressive natural landscapes and wildlife on the planet, and this, combined with our world leading approach to responsible access, make Scotland a unique and special destination for responsible adventure, wildlife and activity tourism.

"Adventure Tourism Week will give us the chance to show case this, learn from each other, discuss how best we can further develop the amazing potential we have and work together to ensure our industry in Scotland plays its part to really drive the sustainable recovery in the Tourism sector and the Scottish economy.”

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Caroline Warburton, who is VisitScotland's regional leadership director for Perthshire, will be part of the awareness week and admits adventure and outdoor activity tourism is nothing new in Scotland as it has been happening for decades, but believes there is a new wave of interest.

"We have seen real growth trend towards more people getting into the outdoors for their health and wellbeing, particularly in the past five to 10 years. We have a wealth of highly qualified guides who can lead you safely in our pursuit of choice or there is the chance to explore yourself.

"In the long term all the trends point towards growth from these industries as people get outside wanting to experience outdoors as we lead more urban lifestyles but in the short term with the current situation this year we know people have been looking to the outdoors and we are lucky that people can access the natural environment under Scottish access rights.”

Adventure Tourism Week will bring a number of parties together through a series of webinars. It coincides with what was supposed to be Wild Scotland’s annual conference, but evolved into the new event. An online programme will be delivered by VisitScotland in partnership with Wild Scotland and Sail Scotland.

The week-long programme will feature webinars on a variety of topics specifically for the active, wildlife and marine sector, including insights on the sector, how the sector responds to Covid, the importance of business collaboration, and developing inspiring content.

Ms Warburton added: “I think this is an opportunity to shout about the amazing experience the domestic market, and hopefully one day soon the returning international market, can have.

“From an industry perspective I think there is more we can do around digital delivery. How can we make it easier for people to become connected and get started with adventure tourism activities in Scotland? Everyone is so used to booking part of their trips on their phones and we want to make it easier to book for example a cycling trip online with improved links.

“It is also important to look at the infrastructure on the ground. We have seen some places around Scotland this year where so many people have wanted to go that we need to look at how people access these areas. We manage the rural design infrastructure funds on behalf of the Scottish Government and we need to manage hotspot areas as much for communities as for the environment.

"This is also an opportunity to work with the industry around responsible tourism. We want to make sure people enjoy fun activities but it is how we approach it from a wildlife and communities perspective of people getting out into the countryside.

"An important part of our marketing surrounding adventure tourism is to make sure people understand there are rules so that we can leave environment and nature as pristine as we can, so we would make a plea around responsible access."

In Perthshire the sector has shown how it can really come together. An initiative to attract more outdoor enthusiasts to the area has been launched in a bid to help the region’s tourism businesses rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic.

Backed by rural enterprise agency GrowBiz, Perthshire Adventure is a collaboration between seven local activity providers working to highlight the range of outdoor activities on offer. It includes Progression Bikes, Outdoor Explore, Beyond Adventure, PaddleSurf Scotland, Still Going Strong, The Canyoning Company and Wee Adventures.

As well as showcasing outdoor activities, the group is working with food, drink, culture and heritage businesses to provide visitors with an all-round experience.

Alan Rankin, chief executive of Sail Scotland, said following Covid restrictions their sector had seen an upward trend in families looking to undertake adventure and activities in a safe, family space or bubble.

Mr Rankin said: “We have seen boat hire and charter increase with families looking to enjoy a safe holiday in their unit. They want to get away on their own. We are seeing new customers and repeat customers wanting to come along and enjoy the outdoors.”

He said the forthcoming event is a great way for adventure tourism to be recognised and secure support for the sector which has been hit hard over the past few months. In particular there is a chance to highlight the importance of marine tourism particularly to Scotland’s remote areas and islands.

“It has been a torrid year where operators have really only had a short few months, and while some sectors might be able to extend slightly, for marine tourism we really are looking ahead to how we position ourselves for 2021," he added. "It is critical to build confidence for businesses looking to reopen in 2021.

“Operators have had to adapt and think about how they do things in the interest of customer safety. Some practices which have been introduced may well be here to stay.”

Tobermory-based Alba Sailing changed its handover and safety advice delivery due to the pandemic, but will now incorporate it going forward.

Mr Rankin added: “Initially the change was made in the interests safety due to coronavirus, but Alba Sailing has digitalised its handover procedures and is now offering customers the chance to view safety procedure videos prior to arrival and then leave the information on board so it is at hand and is a long way from going through a ring binder of rules and procedures.”

A number of initiatives in the summer also had added benefits for island communities and businesses including the shop to ship pilot scheme.

Mr Rankin added: “We started a shop-to-ship service which saw more than 60 businesses become involved in what was meant to be a pilot project. It involved local retailers, butchers and food producers. Sailors could place their orders while on board and were either told where they could pick them up in a safe and secure point of they could be delivered. It enhanced the sailing experience as well as connecting the great food and drink producers."