Leisure cycle tourism couuld be worth nearly £250 million to the Scottish economy each year, according to a new report which says that efforts must be made to brand the country as a “must-visit destination” for the activity.
The report, called The Value of Cycle Tourism, has been published today by transport campaign group Transform Scotland, in partnership with Sustrans Scotland.
Transform Scotland is a national sustainable transport alliance, members of which include rail, bus and shipping operators, local authorities, national environment and conservation groups, businesses and local transport groups.
According to the report, the money spent by locals and visitors alike is higher than previous estimates suggested, and there is huge growth potential that could help make leisure cycling one of Scotland’s leading tourist activities, including through marketing to a broader range of groups and promoting routes, especially in rural areas.
It says that depending on the source used, leisure cycle tourism benefits the Scottish economy to the tune of between £117.2 million and £239 million to the Scottish economy each year.
The vast majority of that money represents expenditure by visitors and locals, but it also includes £4 million in health benefits, £5.6 million to leisure cycling events and £1.5 million for leisure cycling-related infrastructure.
Once mountain biking is added, the overall benefit to the economy rises to between between £236.2m and £358m annually, according to the report.
The report makes ten recommendations, which Transform Scotland says are aligned with the ‘Priorities for Action’ identified in the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s 2012 strategy, Tourism Scotland 2020. Grouped under four main headings, those recommendations are:
STRENGTHENING LEADERSHIP AND COLLABORATION
1. Strengthen leadership and coordination across the sector
2. Deliver better collaboration between local/regional stakeholders
KNOWING OUR MARKETS
3. Establish more comprehensive monitoring arrangements
4. Focus promotional activities on key market segments
5. Brand Scotland as a top destination for cycle touring
6. Develop key themed areas for leisure cycle tourism
MANAGING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
7. Continue the development and marketing of cycle routes 8. enhance information provision and technology integration
BUILDING SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
9. Continue to support cycle events, and extend this support to smaller events
10. Create a development strategy for the growth of cycle tourism.
Colin Howden, director of Transform Scotland, commented: "Our report demonstrates the value of cycle tourism to the Scottish economy.
“From family day-trips to one-day cycle events to long-distance tours, it's clear that leisure cycling makes a significant economic contribution.
“While Scotland has built up a reputation for mountain biking, much more could be done to brand Scotland as a 'must-visit' destination for cycle tourists and leisure trips.
"There is substantial room for growth in touring and leisure cycling and with appropriate promotion could make an even greater contribution to Scotland's economy.
“Our report sets out a strategic direction for both public sector bodies and the private sector in taking forward the expansion of the sector so that it can play its full role in Scotland's tourism strategy."
John Lauder, director of Sustrans Scotland, said: "Scotland can become a top cycling country with leisure and touring cycling a must-do activity for residents and visitors alike.
“It has the potential to generate substantial economic benefits, particularly in rural areas, for a very small expenditure by councils, government and agencies.
"We are sitting on an untapped potential that, with minimal investment, we could quickly realise. As business opportunities go, this is a no-brainer.
“However, more needs to be done to promote leisure and touring cycling to a broader range of people, making it more attractive to beginners, women and young people.
“To realise this great potential there needs to be greater development and marketing of themed cycle routes, including greater visibility for the National Cycle Network and the EuroVelo routes when Scotland markets and promotes itself."
Scottish Government Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing added: "Transform Scotland's report highlights how important cycling is to our tourism economy.
“Our natural environment is the number one reason why people visit Scotland and the Scottish Government is committed to making it as accessible as possible, which is why we are investing £3 million over this year and next in the Oban to Inverness cycle route.
"A successful, buoyant visitor economy – employing local people, using local suppliers and supporting local economies – contributes to a more successful Scotland.
"Outdoor pursuits, such as cycling, play an important part in this and this year as we celebrate the Year of Natural Scotland there is no better time to appreciate the beautiful landscape on our doorstep."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.