15 March, 2023

Visit Isle of Man are pleased to introduce our new Walking Champion Ken Harding and how he came to have a passion for walking in the great outdoors. We also have an update from our Cycling and Active and Adventure Champions. 

Ken had enjoyed a 30 year career working in the golf industry, both in the UK and Isle of Man, before he embarked on a change of career five years ago when he launched his own walking business, Walking.im, based here on the Isle of Man.

He currently offers walking packages all year round both on the Island and takes walking groups off-Island to explore parts of the UK and Ireland. 

Walking has always been a passion for Ken and he has been lucky to enjoy walking holidays and breaks all over the world and has been an active member of the Island’s walking community including taking the Chair of the largest rambling group for several years. Drawing on this background led Ken to appreciate the amazing walking opportunities that the Island had to offer within the leisure and tourism sector.  

He remarks “Many years of experience has taught me that a golf course will only ever be as good as the landscape it is carved from and similarly a walkers utopia will be influenced immensely by the landscape too. With a huge choice of routes, natural history, varied natural landscapes, heritage, and spectacular coastline the Island is a walkers paradise”.

With this undoubted conviction that the Island is a world class walking destination, Ken is delighted to take on the challenge of the Walking Champion role.  He believes that building good foundations will enable the Island to offer a quality walking product and an increase in visitor numbers will follow.

Ken will host regular Walking Forums for the Island’s walking stakeholders.  The intention is that this collaboration will evolve over time and will facilitate a cross section of the tourism sector,  local businesses, Island’s government departments and the walking community to collectively initiate new ideas and develop new products.  With the support of both the Walking Champion and the team at Visit Isle of Man the aim is to build on the Island’s offering to encourage the growth of walking visitors.

If you have an existing or new business idea in relation to walking tourism or wish to connect with Ken, please email ken@walking.im 

Cycling Champion - Richard Fletcher

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 DEFA.

The main focus over the past 3-months has been the working on the joint DEFA and DfE bids for Economic Strategy Board funding for the creation of a Mountain Bike Trail Park and a Closed-Road Cycle Circuit. 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 offering. 

For the 2023 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 MTB Park and Cycle Circuit projects.

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

Active and Adventure Champion - Andy North

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. 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. Andy gives us an update on his progress as Active and Adventure Champion;

Over the past 12 months, the focus has been on experience development, collaboration and helping to identify new tour operators and distribution channels that enable us to reach key growth markets. 

Regular meetings have taken place with active and adventure stakeholders and with representatives of the DOI and DEFA.

For 2023, the intention will be to continue to collaborate with new tour operators, a focus on online booking with the plan to organise all the industry providers and present options to them, progress with using the reservoirs for commercial use and identifying key events to raise the profile of the Island. 

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