Business Blog #3 Self-assess your bicycle tourism offering
Objective self-assessment is always difficult. Our natural tendency is to look at our own city or region through rose coloured glasses. With this in mind, CycleLifeHQ has developed a detailed self-assessment survey that asks you a series of questions to help highlight the strengths, weaknesses and any gaps of your destination. A destination could be a town or city, park, resort, rail trail or even a whole region.
At the end of the process your survey results are sent to our CycleLifeHQ team who will then contact you to share results and suggestions about how you can enhance your bicycle tourism activity.
Data to improve your bicycle tourism experiences
In this blog we share an overview of our bicycle tourism self-assessment tool so that even if you don’t do the full assessment you’ll have a better understanding of what things can improve your bicycle tourism offering and what sort of questions you should be asking.
This survey is aimed at local government – tourism authorities, chambers of commerce and others responsible for economic development and visitation. However, it can also be used by local business in your efforts to create a broader bicycle tourism experience in your destination. In particular it can arm you with the right questions to ask local government and in turn enhance your own business.
For example: Is bicycle tourism in your destination growing, static or declining? This question quickly leads to the need for objective measurement, done consistently over the years so that you can see which steps are working and which are not.
Being such a large and important market, the broader tourism industry is already well experienced in collecting and sharing data including bed nights, total tourism expenditure and so on. Every country has government departments or tourism agencies that collect and share this data.
But if you have a particular rail trail, mountain bike park, wine trail, cultural trail or other key cycling feature in your region, one of the easiest ways to get good data is to simply count the number of cyclists passing through key points. Traditionally this was done with manual counts on a certain day each year, but now there are economical, web enabled, electronic counting systems that can transmit real time data, 365 days per year. One of the largest companies supplying and installing cycling and pedestrian focused counting equipment worldwide is Australian based company Metrocount. Another is French, Ecocounter. Prices start from a few thousand dollars for a single counter. If this is out of reach – and we know it is for many destinations, let alone businesses – your local bicycle club or advocacy group may have volunteers who are willing to undertake manual counts.
Strategy and focus
The next questions you need to ask relate to strategy and focus. There are very few destinations who can offer good bicycle tourism options across all the different segments from mountain biking to gravel riding, road riding, recreational path and sightseeing riding and more.
You need to take stock of your best assets and focus on these by developing both an overall tourism strategy and a specific bicycle tourism strategy that makes the most of your best assets. In marketing terminology, this is your ‘unique value proposition’.
This is one area where you might benefit from some outside guidance from someone with broader expertise and experience in the bicycle tourism field.
Identifying your unique value proposition
Like any industry, especially growing ones, bicycle tourism is a competitive market. Your current and potential future customers have an increasing number of destination options. For example, air travel has been becoming steadily more affordable for decades. There has never been a time in history where so many people can travel so far every year. This trend is showing no signs of abating. Combined with the facts that people are living longer, having more total leisure time and greater wealth than ever before, it’s little wonder that global tourism has been growing strongly, and that there is an ever-growing interest in the adventure and wellness travel segments, both of which prominently feature cycling.
So there’s no problem about the total cycling tourism pie being huge and continuing to grow. The key is to maximize your slice of the pie!
Local pride is a great thing but your potential customers – whether they’re coming from near or far – will be weighing up value for their time and money based upon their own perceptions and comparisons with other destinations.
Once you’ve looked at the bigger picture you need to drill down into specifics. What exactly is on offer for bicycle tourists coming to your region? Where and what are the gaps? Can they easily hire a bicycle? How about an e-bike? Can they take a guided cycling tour? Has your destination prepared self-guided tours with maps and itineraries?
Now that you know your region’s main strengths and exactly what services are on offer, you need to tell your potential customers. This is easier said than done given that they’ll be coming from far and wide. Blanket marketing, even only to your closest catchment area, will almost certainly be too expensive.
That’s because you’re competing for mass marketing space against companies selling mass products that most people use, everything from toothpaste to hamburgers, whereas you only need to reach a tiny portion of the market to be successful.
For example, suppose your small town features a mountain bike park, two hours’ drive from a major city. If you get 20,000 mountain bikers per year visiting and staying say two nights on average, this might be enough visitors to spend six million dollars per year in your town, which positively transforms your local economy.
If there’s eight million people living in your catchment area then you only need one in 400 of them, or just one quarter of one percent, to visit for you to be successful and transform your local economy. This is not allowing for any visitors from further afield and not allowing for any visitors to come more than once per year. So the real number for success from your local catchment might only be one in 800 or less. It’s usually not economical to market to the 799 people who won’t visit your mountain bike park to find the one who will.
Fortunately the internet and social media are highly cost effective for reaching target markets within vast populations. That’s why specialist platforms such as CycleLifeHQ have been successful across targeted market segments. We have direct access to niche cycling and bicycle tourist audiences to market directly to attract these customers to your destination.
In our next blog, we’ll continue to discuss how you can objectively assess your bicycle tourism offering, offer more cost-effective tips for enhancing it, then we’ll look at how you can reach your target market.
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