Bicycle Tourism Bootcamp: The Bicycle Tourism Product – ROUTES
In the five years that we have been working with destinations in identifying and promoting bicycle tourism assets, the concept of the “bicycle tourism product” is perhaps the fuzziest to define. Like other experience based tourism, it is the sum of many working and moving parts. In broad brush strokes, the “bike tourism product” is the promise you make to the bicycling visitor. What is the experience the cyclist will have? Challenging? Relaxed? What is the level of service a cyclist can expect? DIY? Catered? What sort of cyclist would your experience be best for? Family? KOM seeking road cyclist? Dirtbag bikepacker?
The types of bicycle tourism products are as varied as bicyclists themselves, but in our experience there are four key ingredients: Routes, Services, Marketing and Hospitality.
This is perhaps the most obvious but also the least understood by destinations. Cyclists need a place to ride, either on pavement or off pavement. Riding and experiencing a route is often times (but not always) the key motivator for a cyclist to visit. A good route, like a good story, has a defined beginning, middle and end. Like a good story, a good route has a “conflict” or challenge that must be resolved or overcome. It should highlight a specific iconic piece of a destination. It could be the highest pass in the region, it could be traversing a state on dirt roads, riding around a lake or waterfront. Likewise, the conflict/challenge could be cultural. A route could link up museums, bike friendly vineyards or the best ice-cream shops of a region. The key point is a route must have some compelling driving narrative and must transcend the local “club” ride.
A challenge we often see is destinations turn to local riders to suggest routes. Many local riders suggest a good training route, but it isn’t necessarily scenic and doesn’t highlight the “best of the best” of an area. As a cyclist you often become color blind to the routes in your own backyard and can no longer look at them with fresh eyes and place yourself in the shoes of a visitor. A lot of discussions we have are with destinations and local cyclists trying to distill a proposed route into something that would appeal to a visitor.
Once a route is identified and vetted as an interesting and safe route (safety is a key concern of all cyclists!) the route has to be shared in a discoverable way. There are many tools out there that cyclists use to discover routes from RidewithGPS, Strava, BlackRiver and paper maps. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Paper maps are good for once a cyclist is in an area, but they are expensive to produce and a cyclist must physically encounter them.
Many cyclists these days research routes in advance of their visit and download the GPX tracks to their GPS enabled devices. However, having a digital map to not get lost is only one aspect of posting a route online. A missed opportunity we see many destinations do is to only provide a digital breadcrumb trail that isn’t packaged with compelling photos, copy and Points of Interest. This would be equivalent of selling something at the supermarket with just the nutritional information and ingredients on the packaging without the savory photo on the front. You have to provide an emotional trigger, some “hook” that will compel a cyclist to ride your route and ultimately visit and stay at your destination.
If you are a destination and have more questions or are interested in having us present to your DMO or regional tourism conference, contact us!