Business Membership Blog #2 What makes a good destination?
Fundamentals of Bicycle Tourism, Part Two
Welcome to the second in our series of blogs that aim to help you maximize the bicycle tourism potential of your business, town, city or region. In today’s blog we’ll explore some key factors that make a good cycling destination.
What Makes a Good Cycling Destination?
Fortunately, there are many factors that contribute to a good cycling destination, so do not despair if you do not see stunning mountains, lakes or rivers at your doorstep!
As we suggested in our first blog, there are many different types of bicycle tourists. Some may relish long mountain passes whilst others may prefer a leisurely winery tour or local history trail.
Surveys have shown a wide variety of motivations for undertaking bicycle tourism holidays, ranging from health and fitness to relaxation, sightseeing, social interaction, getting outdoors and just seeing something new. You can therefore create a successful bicycle tourism offering everywhere from the centre of a big city through to a remote wilderness.
The key is to objectively assess your strengths and weaknesses; and enhance and build upon your strengths, rather than trying to be all things to all people.
It’s often hard to be objective about your café, hotel, town or region when you’ve lived or worked inside it for so many years. But the key to successful assessment is to try to see things from your customers’ perspective. Remember that everything will be new to them. Although that might present them with a few challenges when finding their way around, on the positive side most people love exploring new places for the first time.
The same things that seem ‘ho hum’ to you because you’ve seen them a thousand times will have your visitors reaching for their cameras.
Don’t underestimate the value of interpretational signage for sightseers. This refers to signage that does not just give directions, which is the role of wayfinding signage. Interpretative signage tells stories, possibly including old photographs or maps that gives visitors a greater appreciation of the history and significance of the site they’re looking at.
For example, the ruins of an old chimney are more impressive when an adjacent sign shows an image of a huge factory or mine, long since closed down and largely demolished.
Offer a Complete Experience
Referrals from satisfied customers to their family and friends are your ultimate source of future marketing, so you want their entire experience to be positive.
This starts from before they even arrive at your destination. Is your website easy to navigate? Do you have enticing photos and easy to understand maps? How easy is it for potential customers to ask questions and then to book?
Upon arrival, is there clear wayfinding signage? Is there plenty of up to date information available about latest trails or riding conditions, where they can eat, what special events or attractions may be on that weekend?
After they’ve returned home is it easy for them to leave positive comments and reviews? Do you send them a timely thank-you and a request for feedback?
If you manage all of these stages well, then you can provide a great customer experience even if your actual cycling offering is more modest than some others.
The elephant in the room for on-road bicycle tourism is danger (both actual and perceived) from motor vehicle traffic. This is a large reason why off-road cycle tourism such as mountain bike parks and rail trails are so popular. But even these are not immune from stresses related to vehicle traffic, whether it be access to the trails or points at which trails cross major roads.
In the longer term, with assistance of government funding and rule changes, you can overcome many of these problems through construction of safe crossings, lowering of speed limits, adding smooth sealed shoulders to country roads and so on.
In the short term you probably have to do the best with what you’ve got, but even then you can reduce your visitors’ stress by giving them good information about quiet and busy times on your local roads, suggesting alternative routes that carry less traffic and by simply forewarning them of key points at which they need to take extra care.
Other things being equal, when it comes to on-road cycling routes the least traffic, traveling at the lowest speeds and the fewest trucks, the better.
Of course when motorists and cyclists are both considerate of each-others’ safety and needs stress levels go down all around.
Theme Your Ride
You might have a pleasant but relatively unspectacular offering for cycle tourists. But what common thread can you draw together to present a themed ride?
It might be a winery tour, an historic rail trail, an architecture tour or even something more obscure.
If you’re from a large city, why not create an alphabet tour with at least one street starting with each letter of the alphabet? Or a Strava Art tour where riding the route draws a picture on the map. This may sound bizarre, but Google ‘Strava Art’, go to images and see how hundreds of cyclists spend their weekends.
Any theme that may attract a particular type of visitor is a good idea, whether it be something highbrow like cathedrals or art galleries, or something a little more down to earth like a tour linking old pubs.
In our next blog we’ll begin a journey through four steps in creating a successful bicycle tourism offering: Establish, Engage, Expand and Optimize.