IFMGA mountain guide Calum Muskett has carried out a comprehensive, independent impact report on COVID-19 to forecast its effect on the UK's professional mountaineering industry. Muskett surveyed members of the four UK mountaineering associations - Mountain Training Association, Association of Mountaineering Instructors, British Association of International Mountain Leaders and British Association of Mountain Guides - and estimates a loss of £58.8 million from 14 March - 14 August 2020 due to COVID-19.
Muskett sent an online questionnaire to members of the four associations concerning expected income for the 2020-2021 financial year and actual income in 2018-19. The survey results show that altogether, their members contributed £92.5 million gross in the 2018-19 tax year, while the forecast earnings over the six-month period in 2020 would be a 63.6% loss compared with the 2018-19 tax year as a result of the seasonality of work. Moreover, members are likely to spend £17.1 million of non-refundable work expenses over this period, the study found.
Owners of limited companies who are also self-employed are the worst affected, with a 68% loss of earnings, and the self-employed who see a 66% loss of earnings. Additionally, the report emphasises the fact that owners of limited companies will be unlikely to benefit from business grants or furloughing in this sector due to company structure.
A further complication is that many self-employed members will be ineligible for the Government's self-employment grant due to having joined the industry too recently and/or having over 50% of work as an employee.
The report concludes:
'Whilst employees and many sole traders will be eligible for Government grants, a large proportion of the membership will find that they do not qualify for any income support other than Universal Credit. The current crisis is likely to be the hardest financial hit to individuals working in the outdoor industry since the Second World War, surpassing that of the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001 and the global financial recession of 2007-8.'
In our UKC/UKH article 'Coronavirus - Outdoor Instructors Feel the Pinch', by Rich Prideaux of Original Outdoors, he wrote: 'Mountain Leaders, Mountaineering Instructors and other outdoor training professionals are by no means unique in facing a loss of income in the coming months – but I think that the freelance community of outdoor leaders is going to be more severely struck than other sectors of the tourism world.'
Mountain Leader Lucy Wallace commented in the piece: 'All my work, all of my clients, just disappeared overnight...'
In a BBC news report on the impact of COVID-19 on the outdoor industry, climbing instructor and founder of Climb When You're Ready, Alan Halewood said: 'Work has come to a crashing halt and income has dried up overnight.'
'Outdoors professionals are all first aiders, are often good at problem solving and quite resilient. I know some have taken jobs in supermarkets and others are volunteering with the NHS and other bodies. We aren't used to being inactive.'
Details of the UK Government's coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme
Guidance for employers regarding the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Guidance for employees regarding the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme