The lockdown has curtailed outdoor activities. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The lockdown has curtailed outdoor activities. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Almost half of UK people surveyed in a consumer research project said they had taken part in fewer outdoor activities during the coronavirus lockdown.

And more than seven out of 10 said they are looking forward to getting out more in the outdoors when restrictions end.

The European Outdoor Group, which represents more than 100 outdoor companies, commissioned the survey, along with the It’s Great Out There Coalition, and the views of 7,000 active consumers were sought in seven European countries during late April and early May.

The outdoor sector in the seven countries that took part is worth €3.9bn (£3.47bn) at wholesale values. The wide-ranging survey explored participation levels in different outdoor activities in detail and identified variations by country, age, gender and other demographic measures.

The research also looked at the barriers that prevent people getting active in the outdoors and identified opportunities for overcoming those.

Of those who completed the survey, 62 per cent usually participate in outdoor activities about monthly or more often, while 29 per cent do so a few times a year.

The EOG said the high level of respondents who are looking forward to doing more in the outdoors after restrictions ease provides a significant sign of optimism for the outdoor sector and supports the European Outdoor Group’s recent open letter to authorities to do more to promote participation and provide guidance for the safe reopening of outdoor activities.

The survey was conducted in the UK, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland.

Among findings of the survey about the impact of Covid-19 on outdoor activities, 46 per cent of UK respondents said they have had reduced physical activities outdoors during the outbreak and 60 per cent have missed those above all else during confinement.

This figure was even higher in Spain (72 per cent) and Italy (65 per cent), two countries which imposed some of the most restrictive lockdowns. A total of 72 per cent of UK respondents are now looking forward to participating in more outdoor activities as a priority when restrictions end.

The impact of different lockdown strategies is clear. In Sweden, which did not impose mass confinement, there is not the same strength of feeling around missing outdoor activities or looking forward to resuming them.

Mark Held, president of the European Outdoor Group. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mark Held, president of the European Outdoor Group. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

EOG president Mark Held said: “This is a comprehensive and robust piece of research in seven of the biggest outdoor markets in Europe, and the results are very clear.

“Wherever citizens have experienced significant restrictions, they have really missed the ability to access the outdoors. More than that, confinement has given active consumers a greater appreciation of the nature that they have been missing.

“The outdoor sector is absolutely ready to welcome everyone, from novice climbers to first-time hikers, but authorities across Europe also need to act and respond positively to this growing appetite.

“It is essential that the public is encouraged to participate in outdoor activities safely and responsibly with the right information from experts. The European Outdoor Group and It’s Great Out There Coalition will continue to campaign and support all such efforts, and we will work with all of our members and partners to help citizens everywhere as they get more active outdoors.”

The group said the research results will be used to support the next stage of the pan-European #itsgreatoutthere campaign. The project is led by the It’s Great Out There Coalition, which was founded by the EOG to promote participation in outdoor activities across Europe.

The coalition has a membership that includes some of Europe’s largest outdoor companies, working together to encourage outdoor activities. The #itsgreatoutthere team also collaborates closely with organisations such as the European Network of Outdoor Sports, the European Commission’s #BeActive project and other partners, to promote and facilitate outdoor participation.

The EOG and It’s Great Out There Coalition said they will work with key stakeholders throughout Europe over the coming months and use the insights from the research, to enhance the promotion of outdoor participation and maximise the impact of all activity to encourage citizens to head into nature in a safe and responsible way.

The research team from Foresight Factory conducted 1,000 online surveys in each country. Consumers were aged 16-plus and quotas were set on gender and age to make the responses nationally representative. Other information collected included income, family structure and place of dwelling. All consumers had to have a minimum level of activity; those who did no physical activity were screened out as they would not be able to answer the survey.

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