The area is well established in mountain biking circles with a world class product on offer through the 7stanes but in 2008 research commissioned by Scottish Enterprise Borders identified scope to widen the destination appeal and grow tourism by encouraging more leisure cyclists to the area.
With many circular cycle routes taking in historic towns, the Borders are ideal for sightseeing and cycling. Around Melrose one short cycle trip can take in the home of Sir Walter Scott, a medieval abbey where the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried and a Roman Fort.
The Borders also has five long distance cycle routes in the area with varying distances to match different lengths of the trip and the ability of the cyclist.
The Borders shop window was full of ideas for cyclists to come and look at, but the cycling tourism infrastructure to support leisure cyclists was uncoordinated.
The Leisure Cycling Project was created to ensure that tourism businesses could maximise the opportunities to attract and meet the needs of this target market. Some case studies follow, but first we will look at the market place and also the needs of cyclists.
European cycle tourism is estimated to be worth £14 billion by 2020. The Scottish Borders has the routes, the scenery, the history and the culture to make it a major cycling destination.
As an activity undertaken as part of a trip by UK visitors the current value of cycle tourism in Scotland is £78 million which is an increase from £45 million in 2008; this value includes mountain biking. If you remove mountain biking then the current leisure cycling value is £33 million in comparison to £31 million in 2008.
The value of cycling as a main purpose activity on holiday by UK visitors is £21 million in comparison to £9 million in 2008 these values include mountain biking. If you remove mountain biking then cycling was worth £7 million in 2009 and £4 million in 2008.
Scotland has over 1,900 miles of National Cycle Network. The number of trips made on the National Cycle Network increased from 31.3 million trips in 2008 to 37.3 million trips in 2009.
94 per cent of tourism businesses in the Borders think cycling is currently vital or important to tourism in the Scottish Borders.
What Cyclists want and need
It’s not glamorous, but when asked cyclists rated bike washing facilities and repair services as most important on a cycling holiday.
Although cycling visitors want independence and adventure they don’t always want to compromise on comfort. There are different types of cyclists – those who may be cycling with a friend or in a group and are more interested in the route, who may choose to live more simply and travel light. There are also family groups or couples who may need a bit more comfort.
Cyclists get hungry so good food is essential, the Borders has some fantastic local food. Cyclists are interested in cafes and local pubs where they can stop off for lunch and cakes.
Cycling holidays need to be well planned. Cyclists need to know how difficult a route is to work out how long it will take to do a section and where they will need to stop along the route.
Access to up to date maps, the local weather forecast and luggage transfer services all make planning easier for the cycling visitor.
Cyclists don’t spend all their time cycling. They need to know about what the Borders has to offer as a destination. Information about local events such as Common Ridings or the Borders Book Festival make the holiday unique and interesting. Local sportives and cycling events such as the Tour of Britain or Tweedlove will also be of interest to them.
Cyclists need all the things they want to see and do close together. For example a family on a cycling holiday may want to stop, have lunch at a local cafe and then do a bit of sightseeing before getting back on the bike. Family visitors tend to need more suggestions for things to see and do to allow them to break the journey enough to provide recovery time for the younger members of the group.
Remember that there are plenty of visitors who may just want to do a bit of cycling whilst on a general holiday, so they will need to know about bike hire and short day/half day routes in the area so have this information to hand or on your website.
Opportunities for local businesses
Access the Borders Bike Kit, it’s a practical online resource designed to support tourism businesses wishing to attract and meet the needs of cycling visitors. It contains royalty free photography, web banners, top tips, cycling maps and itineraries, details of local bike hire and ideas on collaborating with others.
Local businesses can make sure they are as bike friendly as possible. Facilities like a secure place to lock a bike, clothes drying facilities and flexible mealtimes can make all the difference to cyclists. See the Borders Bike kit for guidance.
The Scottish Borders region is piloting with VisitScotland, an extended and enhanced Cyclist’s Welcome Scheme. This has opened up the scheme to more tourism businesses including non accommodation businesses for the first time ever.
Online packaged itineraries make booking easier for customers and therefore boost sales. Work with other businesses to make a trip to the Borders much more compelling for the visitor.
Encourages visitors to stay longer and spend more in the area by creating offers around key cycling events, when the Borders hosted stage 3 of the Tour of Britain in 2009 it attracted £1.3m worth of printed media coverage for the Scottish Borders. 15,000 spectators watched the stage and 389,000 people watched coverage on ITV4.
- Scottish Enterprise Borders (2008) Scottish Borders Recreational Cycling Strategy – Promoting Networks for Sustainable Growth
- VisitScotland (2006) Forecast for Cycle Tourism in Scotland to 2015
- VisitScotland (2010) UKTS
- VisitScotland (2010) UKTS
- Recreational Cycling Group (2010) E-Survey of Borders Businesses