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Adventure Tourism to Support Long-Term Economic Recovery in North East Scotland

From April 2018 - 2020 our Will held the role as Aberdeenshire MTB Development Co-Ordinator providing support to business, events and raising awareness of the region as a MTB Destination.

Mountain Bike Riding in Ballater

Although this project is now complete its success has allowed us to work with old and new partners alike to extend our work in Aberdeenshire through the development of a new project – North East Adventure Tourism (NEAT).

This exciting new project aims to increase the value of adventure tourism in the region with Will fulfilling the project coordinator role and becoming increasingly involved in the wider adventure tourism sector.

Mountain biking continues to be a priority in Aberdeenshire, driving forward growth in the area and we are excited by the prospect that this new project will have for the sustainable growth of the sport alongside other key outdoor activities.

We are delighted to present this video from Dominic Simmons Films identifying some of the key highlights of our Aberdeenshire MTB Development Project. Many thanks to all of our partners for their contributions to the video, the project and the continued growth of MTB in Aberdeenshire.

Read the full press release from Opportunity North East (ONE) here -

North east Scotland is targeting sustainable growth in adventure tourism as part of the long-term economic recovery plan for the tourism sector.

Opportunity North East (ONE), Scottish Enterprise and Aberdeenshire Council are co-funding the next phase of development of a project to increase the value of adventure tourism in the region over the next five to 10 years, with support from VisitAberdeenshire. The goal is to secure a bigger share of the high-value UK adventure tourism market. The project will encourage more visitors to stay in the region longer because of the range and quality of adventure activities on offer.

The project now has added significance as the tourism sector plans for recovery once COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased and visitors are welcomed back to Scotland.

It will focus on the delivery of projects for new land based and coastal activities, creating new events and marketing the area as a leading UK adventure sports destination. This will also increase the amenities available to local residents and communities, contributing to the attractiveness of the region and its future well being economy.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, adventure tourism was the fastest growing sector of the visitor economy in the UK and contributed around £75 million of annual visitor spend in north east Scotland. The region has strengths in landscape, scenery and a mix of terrain including mountains, forests and coastline and pockets of activity covering walking, climbing, cycling, mountain biking, marine and river activities, wildlife and snow sports. There is a real opportunity to raise the region’s adventure tourism profile and grow the market. The successful development of the sector to 2030 could create a further 500 full-time equivalent jobs and secure an additional £120 million to £160 million in visitor spend.

Work with businesses and stakeholders in recent years, led by ONE, has identified opportunities to build on the region's natural assets and adventure tourism sector. The steering group is working on a detailed business case to secure funding to invest in the project and realise the region’s full adventure tourism potential.

The partners have committed project funding of almost £150,000 for 12 months to focus on four areas of activity.

  • Supporting adventure tourism businesses and leaders to develop new products, leadership skills and market knowledge.
  • Marketing and promoting north east Scotland as a leading UK adventure tourism destination.
  • Supporting and coordinating activities within six priority areas: mountain biking, ski centre diversification, marine, a signature long distance trail, hiking, and road cycling
  • Increasing the number of regional and national adventure tourism events held in the region.

A project coordinator with extensive industry experience, Will Clarke, has been appointed to work with the adventure tourism businesses and the project partners, comprising the funding partners and Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland.

Will has spent the last two years as Aberdeenshire Mountain Bike Development Co-ordinator providing support to business, events, raising awareness of the region and developing the adventure tourism offer. An enthusiastic cyclist, hiker and climber with a background in secondary education and sports development, Will brings relevant sector insight to the new project coordinator role.

Jennifer Craw, chief executive of Opportunity North East, said

"Planning for the reopening of the visitor economy and securing funding to drive growth are essential restart and rebuild actions. Industry has an opportunity to develop the valuable adventure tourism market by capitalising on our natural assets, from mountains to sea, and investing in our adventure sports facilities and products. Achieving this will enable businesses to grow long term, create jobs and anchor economic activity in our rural and coastal communities.

“The project partners, including industry, are providing resources to support the sector to plan beyond the current crisis and work together for sustainable growth in adventure tourism activity. Securing public funding to invest in this opportunity will be essential to its success.”

Councillor Peter Argyle, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, commented

“I am delighted that Will continues to make such a valuable contribution following on from his Mountain Bike Development Co-ordinator role, which we also part-funded.

“The value of that experience in this new role is already apparent in seeing landowners, tourists and adventure providers working together to ensure everyone benefits from adventure tourism.

“Given the current Covid restrictions, this role is even more important both in terms of far greater outdoor sports participation and the opportunity that it provides to maximise the economic value within the fantastic Aberdeenshire countryside and coastline.”

Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, added

“VisitAberdeenshire has a track record of delivering highly effective marketing and communication campaigns to promote tourism in the North-east, and we will draw on this experience to inspire more people to visit the region for an active escape. Adventure tourism is an exciting prospect for the North-east, with innovative local businesses offering memorable experiences from paddle boarding off coastal villages to scaling the heights of Ben Macdui, or an e-bike ride in the countryside”


The initial Aberdeenshire MTB project received financial support from the European Union, through the European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD), as part of the 2014 - 2020 LEADER programme. The purpose of the fund is to strength the social, environmental and economic sustainability of rural areas. Supporting the vibrancy and economic viability of rural areas through funding and actions that support rural development.

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