Guide to bicycle tourism success: How to get started

The great thing about the bicycle tourism industry is that most destinations can get started with a very small investment, refining their approach as they go.

You don’t need to spend megabucks to gain traction. 

However, the central challenge for the bicycle tourism industry is that it is highly fragmented. The industry needs to make it easier for destinations to create and market experiences; easier for visitors to research, find and book experiences; and continuously build the quality of visitor experiences.

Our Guide to Bicycle Tourism Success has been written to help communities and destination marketing organizations get started on their paths to bicycle tourism success.

The industry’s central challenge

The central challenge for the bicycle tourism industry is that it is highly fragmented:

  • No one owns “bike experiences”;
  • It is a cottage industry;
  • It has a low digital footprint;
  • There is poor product development;
  • There is limited industry consolidation;
  • 47% of tour providers create < $1m revenue;
  • There are 420 bicycle product brands versus 30,000 bicycle experience brands (a.k.a. destinations); and
  • The industry has small budgets for marketing.

The bicycle tourism industry needs to make it easier for destinations to create and market experiences; easier for visitors to research, find and book experiences; and continuously build the quality of visitor experiences.

Getting started

The great thing about bicycle tourism is that you don’t need to spend megabucks to gain traction.

Most destinations can get started with a very small investment, refining their approach as they go by following four key steps:

1. Leverage existing bicycle infrastructure

Making the most of existing trails, paths and points of interest ensures you don’t need to invest in new infrastructure straight away. Are there opportunities to develop new sightseeing routes using existing trails? Can less popular routes be better promoted?

2. Make it easy for cyclists to find the quality content and information they seek online

To make information easy to find, it should be available online and through smartphone app, as well as in print copy. For added benefits, ensure visitors can filter ride information according to difficulty, length and whether it is family-friendly.

3. Identify gaps in local cycling offerings

Ever been on a bicycle tour in another city like Amsterdam or Barcelona? If yes, you’ll know that most take you around the top points of interest in the city. Use Trip Advisor to identify your destination’s top points of interest. Consider developing a tour that takes visitors to each location and which incorporates local bike friendly businesses.

4. Cross-promote cycling tours

Spread the word about cycling tours at major attractions and local bike-friendly cafes. Tell people what makes your destination unique; why they should visit. You might not be a famous bicycle tourism destination yet, but it helps to plant the seed early. Start using hashtags #cycletourism #cyclecation #BikesMeanBusiness #cyclelifehq #cycle[YourCity] #BikeTravel

Assess your level of bicycle tourism maturity

Your city or town might not be as bicycle-friendly as some of the world’s best practice bicycle tourism destinations … Yet!

But you might be further along the journey than you think. Consider how your destination stacks up against some of the following:

  • Bicycle experience variety
    • Is there a range of mountain bike, road and specialist/sightseeing trails that pass scenic locations and points of interest?
  • Bicycle tour variety
    • Are there bicycle tours for riders with different skill levels and interests, including with trained guides?
  • Quality of sightseeing experiences
    • Are there national icons, art and architecture, wineries, breweries or food and coffee?
  • Cycling opportunities for beginners
    • Are there clearly identified routes where new cyclists can feel safe?
  • Detailed, accessible ride information
    • Are there descriptions of things to do along each route? Can information be personalized for different types of cyclists?
  • Promotion of your destination
    • Is online information available for visitors to find?
    • Are there all-inclusive package tours and multi-day tours?
  • Bicycle tourism infrastructure
    • Are there bicyclists welcome signs?
    • Is wi-fi free?
    • Are the riding surfaces appropriate and do they provide safe routes?
  • Bicycle hire and maintenance availability
    • Are there bike rental facilities?
    • Can tourists hire e-bikes?
  • What is the proximity of bike maintenance to popular routes?

Use our diagnostic tool to self-assess your level of existing bicycle tourism maturity and identify any gaps or barriers:

CycleLifeHQ bicycle tourism services

The path to getting more visitors is different for each destination.

It’s not (just) about a good website, or a good product, or more marketing. It’s about understanding what makes you unique, what is getting in the way, and what you need to do about it.

CycleLifeHQ provides bicycle tourism services through our Hub and Spoke Subscription and Bespoke Consulting Practice.

Our Hub and Spoke subscription provides clients with a helping hand and the benefit and insights of trusted experts behind them.

Our bespoke consulting services provide clients with exclusive access to, and detailed support from, the world’s bicycle tourism experts.

Through both models, we provide all our clients with a clear road-map to success, ensuring their destinations are front and center in people’s mind when selecting their next cycling holiday. We provide easily implementable recommendations, requiring little to no funding, for some quick wins; as well as longer term solutions over 12 months and beyond.

What else you can do to get started

There are many actions you can implement immediately and with little effort to get your bicycle tourism journey underway:

  • Welcome your customers: Chat to your customers using online messaging tools
  • Create a local BikeHub that connects cyclists to rides and businesses. This can be located anywhere e.g. visitor center or bike store.
  • Cyclist friendly certification and logos show visitors they are welcome and help build your product.
  • Develop a Visiting Friends & Relatives program: Make sure you promote your cycling experiences to locals first, as they are the cheapest and easiest way to market to visitors.
  • Build a strong social media presence: Bootstrap directly into a targeted customer demographic. 
  • Create custom offers and promotions. Attract cyclists to your business by pushing your custom offers based on your users’ proximity.
  • Develop postcards for collaborative marketing across key bicycle tourism businesses to cross-promote cycling experiences and businesses.

Start with the basics, build a sustainable plan and be open to continual learning and iteration.

Start small and focus on one niche segment of the cycling market.

Make it easier for visitors to find and use your information – both online and in print.

Focus on quality of experiences and product development, filling any gaps in existing facilities and service provisions.

Engage your local community and businesses

Cycling groups and organisations

International, national and local cycling groups and organizations will be all too willing to support your bicycle tourism endeavors. A common mission many cycling groups have is ‘more people riding bikes’. 

Groups such as the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the League of American Bicyclists, We Ride Australia, bicycle Network (Australia) and others represent  existing cyclists, inspire new cyclists, and advocate changes to make it easier and safer for everyone to ride.