Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation or outdoor activity is a ‘way of life’ in Queensland.  We will provide information and resources relevant to supporting the industry specifically in workforce development.



The outdoor recreation sector covers all active and leisure activities occurring in natural settings. Individuals or groups participate in a range of activities from bush walking and swimming to riskier activities like rock climbing and white-water rafting.

The sector sometimes works with disability groups, young people or corporate groups. Organisations tend to specialise in activities such as abseiling, canoeing, or operate as adventure tourism, ecotourism or holiday camps.

People employed in the outdoor recreation sector are usually expected to have “hard” and “soft” skills. Hard skills relate to the expertise in a particular activity which will keep participants safe and soft skills relate to communication, coordination, marketing and facilitation of activities.


Sector profile

To quantify numbers, as at November 2012 under the ABS ANZSCO descriptor of Outdoor Adventure Guide, employment in Queensland has increased by 102.2% in the last year to 1,400 persons. Queensland has 43.9 percent share of the national employment of Outdoor Adventure Guides (3,100 persons national).[i]  It is almost certain that this number is a conservative estimate of actual employment reported in this sector, as it is unclear if the Outdoor Adventure Guide occupation includes more specific activity based titles such as Recreation Officer, Diving Instructor (Open Water), Outdoor Adventure Instructor, Horse Riding Coach or Instructor, Fishing Guide, Whitewater Rafting Guide, Trekking Guide, and Mountain Guide to name a few.

In addition a study for the outdoor recreation sector[ii] determined that it is not possible to isolate employment in outdoor recreation in the ANZSIC groups in the sub-division Sport and Recreation. However it examined the types of firms in each ANZSIC class and concluded that outdoor recreation firms are likely to predominate the ANZSIC group 913 “Amusement and Other Recreation Activities”.[iii] The report concluded this group accounts for approximately 5 percent (10,600 national) of all paid employees in the Arts and Recreation Services classification (for Queensland this equates to 2,120 employees).  Again this is a conservative estimate of numbers as it does not account for those employees classified under other industry sectors.

 The ambiguity of national reporting descriptors and classifications and how employers/employees might report /associate their occupation, needs further investigation.

Therefore Skills Alliance estimates that employment for Queensland in outdoor recreation is approximately 3,520.

Value of outdoor recreation to Queensland[iv]

  • $2 billion is an indicative estimate of its annual contribution to GSP
  • High quality outdoor recreation opportunities are major attractors of tourists to Queensland
  • Strong economic linkages between outdoor recreation and other sectors e.g. tourism, retail (through demand for equipment)
  • 45 percent of outdoor recreation providers had annual turnover in excess of $100,000 per annum, with more than 22 percent having annual turnover of at least $1 million[v]
  • Environmental contribution by creating a demand for preservation of natural, open spaces
  • Social capital benefits forged by group participation and socialisation in activities

 Labour market information[vi] 

  • Jobs prospects are good
  • Employment to 2016-2017 is expected to grow moderately
  • Unemployment for Outdoor Adventure Guides is below average
  • Employed across several industries: Arts and Recreation Services, Education and Training, Transport Postal and Warehousing, and Administrative and Support Services
  • These occupations are also linked and employed in the tourism industry
  • The (internet) vacancy level is very high
  • Outdoor Recreation Instructors often work irregular hours that include nights and weekends
  • Due to seasonal fluctuations, there may be periods of low demand for jobs
  • Leisure management is a growth area
  • Management and marketing skills are sought after
  • Weekly earnings for full-time workers before tax is $960

The following information on occupational shortages, reasons for shortages, issues, and workforce responses is the result of the 2012 Skills Alliance Influence Your Industry’s Future workforce development survey.  This information has also been consolidated in the 2012-2013 Skills Report.

Outdoor recreation occupational shortages

  • Outdoor Recreation Guide / Outdoor Recreation Instructor
  • Diving Instructor

Reasons for shortages 

  1. Lack of skills/Experience
  2. Training delivery issues
  3. High turnover, Employment arrangements, changing demographics 

Key issues

  • Critical skills shortages in the sector caused by increased demand for participation in outdoor recreation/education activities and increased compliance requirements e.g. ACARA
  • Growth in demand for outdoor instruction and fitness boot camp style training
  • Employment opportunities are steadily increasing with the growth in the numbers of international and domestic tourists taking outdoor adventure holidays in Australia[vii]
  • The high turnover rate is attributed to the casual workforce characteristic of this sector

A report by the Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation also cites the following challenges for the outdoor recreation sector:[viii]

  • Retaining quality staff/volunteers
  • Increases in costs (e.g. transport, permits, insurance)
  • Availability and access to suitable sites
  • Lack of time

The most commonly reported reasons why employees leave an outdoor organisation include:

  • Relocating to another area
  • Retirement
  • Career change/career progression
  • Stress/burnout/fatigue
  • Family reasons

Staff skills shortages in the sector focus on:

  • Outdoor recreation activity skills
  • Risk Management
  • Current legislation/Standards
  • Activity and Program Management
  • Marketing
  • Business Development/Planning
  • Governance
  • In addition the lack of training organisations (from 2013, Sunshine Coast Institute of TAFE is the only public provider) delivering outdoor recreation in Queensland is having a significant impact, particularly for training delivery and access for regional Queensland – the geographical spread of Queensland and limited providers makes it difficult to access training
  • There is no longer a tertiary qualification in outdoor recreation in Queensland.  There used to be a Graduate Diploma of Outdoor Education and outdoor recreation majors in Bachelor of Business/Leisure Management degrees offered through the tertiary sector
  • Increased compliance requirements are impacting on organisations e.g. schools
  • There is a need for consistent, affordable training (on demand) by training providers
  • There is a gap between what is delivered and what is needed.  E.g. the Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation includes training in two activities/specialisations, when most organisations offer 5-7 activities

There is also a key issue around data that is available for this sector that impacts on reported numbers of employees, and how employers associate their workers in terms of job titles and links to the sector – i.e. consistency of labelling of job titles.  For example, key titles such as Outdoor Recreation Instructor/Leader and Outdoor Education Instructor/Leader are influenced by the type of employer, the intent of their delivery, facilitation of skills, and the outcomes of what the employer needs to achieve for their organisation.

There are a number of consequences of this issue:

  • Employees in the sector are reported in other industry sectors which leads to a significant under-estimate in “outdoor recreation”  e.g. Adventure Tourism Guide/Instructor – may associate more closely with Tourism industry; Outdoor Education Instructor – may associate more closely with the Education and Training industry
  • Sectoral disparity in what types of jobs are covered under the broad ABS classification of “Outdoor Adventure Guides”
  • Observation of roles indicates these jobs to be substantially similar in core skills, just applied through different facilitation

In summary, this issue needs further consideration and sector consultation in order to gain an agreed understanding of how employees are “counted” for the purposes of data capture to ensure validity in reported numbers for the sector.

Emerging trends

 The top two emerging trends impacting on outdoor recreation organisations are social media and new skills required.

Current responses 

In terms of what strategies outdoor recreation organisation have used to respond to these skills gaps, the top three responses were to:

  1. Provide training
  2. Seek funding or other grants from government
  3. Collaborated with other organisations to share resources or costs of training

Future strategies needed

  • Need to the ability to provide zero or low cost training to volunteers across QLD. Outdoor Activity skills training requires face to face delivery, access to physical and natural resources and most significantly time for skills development
  • Create a Cert III in Scuba Instruction from the Outdoor Recreation Package that is relevant to our industry and does not include competencies that are not needed. We have a Skills Set that was a direct result of extensive consultation and was funded by the QLD
  • Increase training to regional places
  • Have the capacity to measure the effects of our efforts on training and retaining staff
  • Have the capacity to not only support the leading outdoor recreation businesses but all businesses in our region
  • Remove unfair competition from government funded recreation/ active and healthy centres to help bolster the small businesses to deliver better services to the community


[i] ABS Labour Force Survey – Employment by Occupation Time Series for Queensland to November Quarter 2012

[ii] Measuring the contribution of the Outdoor Recreation Sector in Queensland, May 2012, prepared by Synergies Economic Consulting for the Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation

[iii] ABS Cat. 1292.0, 2008, Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) available at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts.

[iv] Measuring the contribution of the Outdoor Recreation Sector in Queensland, May 2012, prepared by Synergies Economic Consulting for the Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation

[v] Queensland Outdoor Sector Survey 2010, Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation

[vi] Job Outlook, Australian Government, accessed 27 March 2013

[vii] Outdoor Queensland, QORF

[viii] Queensland Outdoor Sector Survey 2010, QORF

Outdoor Recreation Jobs

Outdoor Recreation Jobs

There are extensive opportunities in the outdoor recreation industry for volunteering and employment.  Types of roles include:


  • Recreation Officer
  • Diving Instructor (Open Water)
  • Outdoor Adventure Instructor
  • Horse Riding Coach or Instructor
  • Outdoor Adventure Guides
  • Snow-sport Instructor
  • Fishing Guide


  • White-water Rafting Guide
  • Trekking Guide
  • Bungy Jump Master
  • Hunting Guide
  • Mountain or Glacier Guide


  • Swimming Teacher
  • Recreational Therapist
  • Massage Therapist
  • First Aid Officer
  • Lifeguard


Visiting the Myfuture website: http://www.myfuture.edu.au under the heading the Facts you can find out about the industry.  To find out about a specific job in the outdoor recreation industry look under the myfuture’s tab the Facts, Work and Employment/Occupation search.

News and Articles

News and Articles

Service Skills Australia – Outdoor Recreation Discussion Paper – open for consultation – January to March 2015.

Queensland entrepreneur launches new adventure tourism insurance company – Australasian Leisure Management – 30 December 2014

A new insurance company that specialises in personal and property insurance for the often very specific needs of the adventure travel and sports market has been launched.

UN report shows growing value of global adventure tourism – Australasian Leisure Management – 30 November 2014

Identifying adventure tourism as one of the fastest growing sectors in global adventure tourism, a new United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report highlights that countries in all stages of economic development are prioritising adventure tourism for market growth, based on a recognition of its ecological, cultural and economic value.

Statewide Outdoor Recreation Framework – Queensland Government – November 2014

The Statewide Outdoor Recreation Framework is designed to protect and improve access to outdoor recreation places and spaces; promote outdoor recreation opportunities and participation; and enhance the sustainability and capacity of the outdoor recreation sector.

CAMPING FAMILIES ARE HAPPIER, HEALTHIER AND WEALTHIER – Australasian Leisure Management – 18 September 2014

The Caravan Industry Association of Australia is highlighting that caravanning and camping holidays not only offer great value, but that they also help build and nurture the close relationships that are essential to a happy family life.

Brisbane Valley Rail Trail to benefit from $2 million funding – Australasian Leisure Management – 6 August 2014

Works to the Kilkivan to Kingaroy section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) have been given the go ahead with the allocation of $2 million to develop the multi-use recreational track.

Recreational review of Queensland dams reaches major milestone – SEQ Water – 16 May 2014

Residents in south-east Queensland will soon have better access to dams and catchments thanks to an extensive review of recreational opportunities, which has reached a major milestone.

Queensland State Government to re-teach kids how to play via Nature Play education program – Jackie Sinnerton, The Courier Mail – 26 February 2014

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says there was an 8.46 per cent ­increase in emergency presentations of children aged five to 14 in 2012-13 compared with 2010-11. The news is so grim that the State Government is rolling out Nature Play, a project to educate parents and children on how to switch screen time to green time.

Woman vs Wild – at 100km race through the unforgiving mountainous terrain for the Annual The North Face 100 running event.

QORF Awards – 25 October 2013 – Peter Henneken (right), Chair of Skills Alliance presenting the FSR Skills Alliance Excellence in Outdoor Instruction and Education Award to Queensland Conference & Camping Centres.