23 November, 2021

Visit Isle of Man are pleased to introduce the Active and Adventure Champion Andy North to the industry and how he came to have a passion for adventure in the great outdoors. We also have an update from our current Walking and Cycling Champions on their current projects and progress in the role to date.  

Andy North, Active and Adventure Champion

Andy has been involved with adventure, wildlife and wellbeing for the last 35 years, with many years leading groups into the wilds of New Zealand, Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Norway, Europe, UK and Ireland.  In this time he has seen many trends come and go and even invented a few himself and has a keen eye for what motivates and inspires people to re-wild themselves.

While he was living in Skye Andy was helping to run environmental education in schools, working as a volunteer for the RSPB and was leading kayaking, mountaineering, windsurfing and coasteering clients into the wild places as a professional guide.

In 1999 Andy returned to the Isle of Man, where he has worked with many of the adventure operators and the charity sector, mostly helping disadvantaged young people discover adventure around the Isle of Man.  He is a keen surfer, ecologist and loves exploring by bike, foot and on anything that floats.  

Andy swapped back to his creative career in video, photography and publishing when his children were small, but has recently returned to working in the outdoors and looks forward to helping promote the Island as a stunning place to feel fully alive and enjoy being active and adventurous.

He is currently teaching navigation and running wellbeing retreats that combine adventure, mindfulness, wildlife watching, cold water immersion and techniques for forging deeper connections with nature.

He is keen to help people from all over the world discover the unique qualities that this beautiful Island has to offer.

If you have an existing or new business idea in relation to active or adventure tourism or wish to connect with Andy, please email adventurechampion@gmail.com

Richard Fletcher, Cycling Champion

Richard has been involved in Isle of Man Cycling for over 40-years, with the first twenty being in a competitive role as an Elite Amateur Racing Cyclist. Richard gives us an update on his progress as Cycling Champion;

Over the past 12 months, priority and focus has been on the areas and actions identified in the Cycling Product Development Plan that will be necessary to develop a successful Cycling product for the Island. The areas of focus include events, promotion, infrastructure, online presence, services and travel.

Regular meetings have continued to take place with cycling stakeholders including the Isle of Man Cycling Association (IOMCA), Manx Sport & Recreation, (MSR), cycling event organisers and with representatives of the DOI and the DEFA.

The main focus over the past 3-months has been the working on the joint DEFA and DfE bids for ERG funding towards the enhancement and expansion of the existing Trail network, the creation of a MTB Park and the creation of a Cycle Park. The provision of Cycling specific facilities and enhancement of the overall Cycling environment on the Island are essential elements for the development of the Cycling product. 

For the 2022 season, the intention is to complete the deployment of signage infrastructure, update the cycling literature available, produce a bid to British Cycling to attract three national events to the Island and to progress the procurement of a supplier for the MTB Park and Cycle Park bid.

To contact Richard about the projects or your own ideas for developing the product proposition for cyclists on the Island email richardfletcher@manx.net

Kate Bergquist, Walking Champion

Kate is a qualified walk leader with 11 years’ experience leading walks, on and off Island. Kate often led in the Lake District fells for keen Wainwright bagging enthusiasts. Kate gives us an update on her progress in the role;

Working with various colleagues and across government departments, the activity worked on throughout the past year supports Visit Isle of Man’s new marketing aim to attract new walking tourists as well as younger travellers as identified opportunities in recent studies (Insight studies and Product Audit) supported also by research completed at the beginning of my appointment. In recent weeks Ramblers UK reported memberships for the under 40’s have increased rapidly the last two years counting more than 50 groups nationwide for people in their 20s and 30s. The Long Distance Walking Association (LDWA) have also increased their under 50’s members by 38%.

A successful bid enabled the funding and delivery of a Level 3 Lowland Leader qualification at UCM resulting in 14 newly qualified walk leaders with a variety of skills and ideas which will benefit Walking Tourism enormously. It is hoped 2022, will be the launch of 7 new visitor friendly routes and itineraries taking in the Island’s summits over 1000ft along with new best of the Raad ny Foillan trails. Organised meetings with stakeholders will soon take place and utilise the product to create some great experiences for potential visitors while working alongside the Active and Adventure champion to encourage industry collaboration on multi-adventure experiences for new travel trade prospects.

Working with DEFA and DOI we have identified a number of routes that can be made more accessible, with a longer term commitment to improve and invest in facilities on these routes to meet the needs of different users, benefitting our local community and our visitors. Alongside this, work is ongoing with a small team to deliver a new edition of the Walking Guide, which will include a more diverse choice of routes. The industry will see a great new photography bank undertaken this year with my direction showcasing the outstanding walking proposition in the uplands.

This winter, I am leading a series of festive walks following a successful mini winter festival last year. I encourage other local guides and businesses to publish their walking and adventure experiences on visitisleofman.com and submitting them here.  

To contact Kate about the projects or your own ideas for developing the product proposition for walkers and hikers on the Isle of Man email katebergquist@iomc.ac.im.

If you have a more general query please speak to the New Product team on tourismbusiness@gov.im or call 01624 686888.