Build It And They Will Come: Mountain Bike Destinations

Part 1: Presented by Martin Littlejohn, Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association, presenting on MTB tourism in British Columbia, Canada

  • In 2005, a report concluded that MTB had become a more popular attraction than golf in Whistler
  • Sea to Sky study in 2006, found that more than half of Whistler’s visitors are from outside of BC. Demonstrated value of MTB trails to communities, included surveies for demographics and behavior
  • Sanctioned trails for MTB are found in every region of the province due to the trails strategy
  • Communities are seeking new ways to diversify economically
  • Burns Lake BC: sawmill burned down, which employed 1/3 of town, but trails now are fuelling economic growth. IMBA was involved with trail development
  • MTB is a small but resilient market, showing steady growth in a time of overall tourism decline
  • Relatively low investment with many benefits

Mountain culture is an important trait for this region. Often riders are familiar with their own trails, but lack info or confidence on how to experience what lies outside their backyard. Dedicating resources to a robust website, with lots of photos to get people interested.

No more secrets — the days of the secret trails society is gone. Emphasis on adding more sanctioned trails; promote the experience with information.

Encouraging signs

  • Participation stats are increasing
  • Better access
  • Healthy industry (retailers, manufacturing, growth in a time of decline)
  • Local recreation > trails are community assets that provide local rec with health benefits
  • Provides opportunities for people to connect with outdoors – especially youth

Tourism benefits associated with MTB

  • Longer than average stays, and wider distribution of expenditures in host community
  • MTB visitors become connected to the places they visit.
  • They are more likely to tell friends and relatives about it, and revisit locations

What makes a great destination?

  1. Trail-specific attributes: Authenticity of experience, real cycling community and bike culture, Topography and landscapes, Trail design and diversity, and Management and promotion
  2. Strategy: 2010 provincial MTB tourism strategy presented this vision: “To have BC recognized as the most diverse MTB destination in the world”
  3. Partnerships: ID lead orgs or groups in communities and assess their readiness (trail status, local support, management plan); encourage local alliances (land managers w/ local bike club); local content including images video, trail descriptions, services, news, events, tips; MOU with partners so everyone knows where responsibilities lie
  4. Branding: bike parks BC, and mountain biking BC. websites, marketing on Facebook.

Part 2. How to Create a MTB Destination in a Resort Context, Presented by Darco Cazin, Allegra Tourismus, Switzerland

Cazin works primarily with ski destinations, which see two problems: 1) summer, 2) climate change.

Skiing may be a dying sport — MTB represents a new opportunity.

Resorts see this great new market – but too many just want to focus on marketing w/o improving their existing infrastructures. They look to Whistler to be successful and profitable, but more/other models are possible.

So…how do we create real MTB destinations?

  • Trails (and maps, marketing for them, etc.)
  • Transportation (to/from, and perhaps lift access)
  • Lodging + food
  • Services (bike shops, guiding)
  • MTB scene/culture (get it in the DNA of the town/community)

Consider all of these… but realize that the sport is always evolving and growing, so your efforts are never done. What is most important?

  • Trails will be your backbone or basis
  • Then, transport / hotel / services is where you make money
  • Local scene is a shortcut which drives all the other elements

The IMBA World Summit received generous title sponsorship from the Federal Highway Administration & the Bikes Belong Coalition.