Go Ape riding high on customers’ sense of adventure

Go Ape tree-top adventure. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Go Ape tree-top adventure. Picture: SUPPLIED. - Credit: Archant

Outdoor specialist Go Ape is reaching for new heights with ambitious growth plans to capitalise on customers' appetite for adventure.

The company, which set up its first site at Thetford Forest in 2002, is aiming to create 400 new jobs, expand its UK operation and open in five new US locations this year.

It comes as the firm was named in the 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain report, compiled by the London Stock Exchange Group, which highlighted a move among consumers to spend disposable income on leisure experiences rather than goods.

Managing director Jerome Mayhew said Go Ape was looking to increase peak-season staff numbers from 900 last year to 1,300 this summer, with a view to doubling again within three years.

'We've always been a growth business. We believe that no business stays the same: you either go up or you go down,' he said.

'We challenge ourselves to live life adventurously as a business. We talk about 'if in doubt, do it' – we should be the kind of business that's up for a challenge.'

That thinking has led to the company, which employs 40 staff at its Bury St Edmunds headquarters, taking a majority interest in a joint venture in the US, where it already has 12 courses, and wants 17 by the year end.

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In this country, it branched out from its high-ropes courses during the recession by investing in adventure courses for younger visitors and motorised Segway tours for the less adventurous, while a new indoor trampolining venture, Airspace, has proved successful already.

Last year more than 860,000 people visited the company's 29 sites, up 6pc, as turnover at Go Ape UK rose 8pc to £20m. The company's first city-centre course opened in Battersea Park in December, with further sites earmarked in Birmingham and Newcastle.

'If we're growing at five sites a year and growing Airspace, which creates 70 jobs a time, it doesn't take much to put on that many new jobs,' said Mr Mayhew, though he said many posts would be seasonal. The adventure firm was set up by Mr Mayhew's brother and sister-in-law Tristram and Rebecca Mayhew, who signed a national deal with the Forestry Commission to share their sites in 2001.

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