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Promoting Bicycle Tourism




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Bicycle tourists are any thing but a homogeneous group.  Because they are many faceted of bicycle tourism there is not a single model for attracting and promoting to the practitioners.  To provide a hint of the diversity of bicycle tourists, a non-exhaustive list of the general categories of bicycle tourist starts with: 

  • Long-distance “credit card” tourists – they are traveling through, travel light, eat in restaurants and stay in hotels.  They might pick there route primarily for the achievement of getting to point A to point B by bicycle with consideration for the quality of the hotels and restaurants.  This may or may not be influenced by an additional interest in the historical and cultural assets, or scenery, or some other tangible characteristic.  This group can sub-divided into the quantitative types (goal oriented) and the qualitative types (more experientially oriented).
  • Long distance self-contained tourists – these also are traveling through, but they carry almost all of their needs, cook most of their own food and camp most nights.  There motivations for selecting a route can be similar to those of the credit-card tourist, without the same focus on accommodations.
  • Destination tourist – they head to a base where they can take “recreational” ride in different directions – on-road or off-road – on successive days to explore the region.  There lodging preference can range from camping to five-star.  As alluded to, some of this group are looking for road-bike opportunities and some of the riders want a mountain-bike experience.  Within each of these groups the riders can be seeking a full range of different levels of difficulty.
  • Family tourists – like destination tourists they have a base but they are looking for family-friendly bike facilities and may sample other kinds of recreational opportunities on successive days.
  • Van-supported tourist – they can be long-distance tourist (hotel-stay or campers) or destinations tourist, but because they are supported by a van and have a longer range they can cherry-pick a bigger area to find just the rides or services that meet their criteria.

 With the diversity of style there is also a diversity of there needs but it can be generally stated that they all need safe routes, bicycle-friendly lodging, food, a secure place to store their bicycles when they aren’t riding them, and a warm friendly welcome. 

“Safe routes” can be a little elusive because what is sufficiently safe for a seasoned world traveler might not even be anywhere close to meeting the needs of a family just beginning to explore the sport.  The character of the transportation infrastructure will limit the types of bicycle tourist that are attracted to an area.  Of course well thought out bicycle-friendly improvements to the infrastructure can expand the constituency for the area.

A friendly welcome can have both a objective and subjective aspects:  A warm smile is not enough.  Bicyclist have a hard time understanding why a business, that wants there patronage, can be fronted by a bunch of hulking metal motor vehicles while they are sent off to park their self proclaimed elegant machine in some obscure corner to preserve “decorum” or devise other rules and signals that make them feel a little less welcome.

Some bikes are worth thousands of dollars, pounds or Euros, so security is also an issue.  While some bicyclist will ride in the rain, almost no bicyclists like to store their bikes in the rain.  Storage can range from hotel rooms, to hallways, to separate storage rooms, to covered patios to space under a waterproof tarp.  If a proprietor doesn’t want bicycles inside (they are potentially dirt and can mark walls) they should thing through how the travel can off-load his belongs and get them to the room and the bicycle to the designated storage area conveniently.  Hotels that front onto narrow sidewalks and with lobbies up from the ground floor can be problematic for this.  Circumstance with dictate what the best staging and storage option will be.

It is also a plus if there is a well stocked bicycle shop in the vicinity, and in this day and age access to free WiFi or a computer terminal with Internet access will be greatly appreciated.

Given the diversity of prospective visitors a group trying to promote bicycle tourism needs to inventory the local assets that would be of interest to a bicycle tourist.  From the strengths in this inventory the promoters should get a picture of the segment of bicycle tourists that would have the strongest attraction to the region.  With knowledge of the target audience it should be easier to start to develop a marking plan.

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The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of  four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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