Economic Impacts of Mountain Biking Tourism

Jun 7, 2014 at 20:19
by Lee Lau  

Introduction

"Bikes are for kids." "You paid how much for that pushbike?" I'm sure anyone who hangs out on this site or on any of other myriad of mountain bike enthusiast sites that have spread like disease in the past while has heard this before, and probably had the same shaking-head reaction. But we're "enthusiasts"; bike geeks. Some would say blinkered addicts, addicted to mountain biking, trail building, riding, and hanging out with other mountain bikers. Often caught up in an ecosystem of bike nerdery without much insight into the relative smallness of the mountain biking industry and its relative insignificance in the grand scheme of a global economy.

Times are a-changing though. The people who started riding in the 80's and 90's are now older. Often they have kids. They're still riding; and they're travelling to ride. Sometimes they travel with their spouses; sometimes with friends. Many times travel and mountain biking is a family affair as Mums and Dads ride with their sons and daughters.

Slowly but surely the tourism industry is catching on to this; targeting their marketing to this potentially lucrative new demographic. Recognition that mountain bikers are not just a fringe iconoclastic set of slumming dirtbags is not completely universal. There's a wide contrast between say the sophistication of Tourism Whistler in Canada who actively promotes mountain biking and collects copious data about all visitors to Whistler. Compare this to Chur Tourismus in Switzerland who as late as 2010 told us that they did not encourage mountain biking from the top of their Brambuesch gondola (to be fair it seems now that Chur has gotten religion and actively promotes the sport).

The purpose of this article is to compare economic impacts of mountain biking tourism in diverse locales. The article assumes that, within reason, "growing the sport" and tourism is inherently a good thing; both for local communities and for mountain bikers. However, there is extensive disagreement about this stance so please discuss in the comments if you have an opinion.

EDIT - many thanks to those providing comments, insight and vital information. including Claude Balsiger (Davos, Switz.), Sierra van der Meer (Yukon), Sean O'Neill (MT), Jeff Cooke (Squamish), Rob McSkimming (Whistler), Frank Savage (Whistler), Samuel Hubschmid (Interlaken, Switz.), Darco Cazin (Graubunden Bike), Ursula Beamish-Mader (Tourism Switz.), Eric Brown (Bellingham), Justin Calof/Thomas Schoen (Williams Lake), Ray Freeman (Victoria) and many others

MTB Tourism examples.

Kleine Riffelsee in Zermatt


Who travels to mountain bike?

As someone who travels to and writes about appealing places to visit on a mountain bike, anecdotally speaking it seems that even the dark ages tourism professionals are beginning to clue into the fact that mountain bikers are a target market with some degree of spending power and desire to travel. But people who travel to mountain bike are predominantly of a certain age and travel preference.

I took the trouble of aggregating recent relevant content concerning economic impacts of mountain biking from a variety of sources. Source files of all these Economic Impact Assessments are here. Many of these EIA's breakout economic impacts not just by locals but also by travellers. Even a small glance will show that the usual suspects (Whistler, North Vancouver) have detailed EIA's but even this data tends to be stale-dated. Notable omissions from this article include Phoenix, Vancouver Island, South Tyrol, Austria and other locales. Since I don't have access to academic bibliographies or written copies not on the web it is possible, indeed probable, that I missed a ton of data so please use the comments to point to regional studies if there any. A 2004 Government of Yukon study by Jane Koepke is an older comparative piece that also attempted to compare economic impacts of mountain bike tourism and was useful in providing historical data.

It turns out that mountain bikers who destination travel spend comparable amounts per day, spend as much time and are willing to travel as far as other groups such as golfers who tourism marketers typically chase. A useful study from the Canada Tourist Commission displaying average spend and duration of average stay for all tourists (all years) shows mountain bikers coming in about average or above average on counts as compared to other summer visitors. In general the EIA's show that the profile of a typical visitor is as follows:

• Predominantly male (approx 75%)
• 25-45 years old (approx 65-70% on a bell curve distribution with tails dropping off dramatically on each end except in Moab and Whistler where there were a significant amount of younger travellers). 19-29 year olds are generally the second largest category at approx 27%.
• A majority (55%) had household income levels greater than $80,000. As a datapoint 31% of all BC outdoor recreationalists had household income levels greater than $ 80,000. Mountain biking visitors were generally in line with all tourists to Canada going on guided tours (59% had incomes of greater than $100,000)
• Average stay at each location 3 to 5 days (longer if the visitor is from far away; shorter if the visitor is from close by)
• Average spend per day $ 60 - $ 100 (inclusive of accoms, food, recreation, etc but exclusive of travel costs to get to a destination)

To the extent there is data, international travellers generally spend more than domestic travellers over the course of their trip. Perhaps that might be because the upfront cost of forking over for the airline ticket means that the international traveller wants to invest more time and money in having a good experience. But international visitors also spend more days; accordingly their per day spending tends to be less - presumably because package lodging and food deals are priced cheaper for longer stays.

it's interesting to note that contemporary data is little changed from the 2004 Koepke study profile with the exception that an increasing number of visitors/travellers now travel with non-biking partners or with family and that the demographic is slightly older.

CTC 2012 visitor snapshot

Canada Tourist Commission 2012 all travellers characteristics to Canada - international travellers over the entire year


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Vancouver Island is a locally known fantastic spot to ride with year-round opportunities but Tourism VI does not have analytics about who rides and why they visit.

The Aletscharena is one of the world's magical places but the Swiss (one of the world's most organized people) have poor data on who visits this area to bike and why.
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Selected studies

Diving into more detail here are some of the numbers from the various EIAs surveyed in this article. At the outset its noteworthy that all the communities who're the subject of the EIA's have a strong local mountain bike community, strong local trail network and active local organizations. Truly it seems that once the community has a entrenched, passionate local foundation that others want to visit and also experience from that richness.

Whistler

The seminal MBTA 2007 study Whistler Report is the one most commonly used as a baseline. Surprisingly it showed that over half (52%) of Whistler visitors weren't there for the bike park but for the Whistler valley's exceptional trail system. Bike park ridership was greater though due to number of repeat visitors (76,600 bikepark vs 25,000 trail for the mid June to mid Sept study period) There was less than 10% crossover between bikepark and valley trail riders showing that the trail system, in and of itself was a significant draw. A large majority (70% were male). Another large majority (68%) were non-locals. Riders in Whistler (including bikepark and trails) were predominantly in the 30-39 category (37%) with bikepark riders being generally older than trail riders. Visiting riders were strongly represented by 18 and under year olds (18%) which brings down the average age making visiting riders in Whistler relatively younger than for any other area with an EIA (except for Moab where the average age of visitors was also younger). Living in Whistler I would hazard a guess that there is a noticeable subset of younger travellers who are more budget-conscious that travel to this core name-brand destination but the younger demographics' average dollar spend isn't significant.

As to spending, 90% of visitors were overnight visitors. Both bikepark and trail riders stayed a fairly long time (4.5 to 5 nights). Bikepark riders spent more per day ($133) vs trail riders ($94) - but taking out the price of the bikepark passes, trail riders spent more. International/oversea visitors spent the most, stayed the longest (7 nights) but spent less per day on average; probably because lodging costs drop as you stay longer. Income of riders was all over the place with the bell curves having fat tails at bottom and top end (ie fair amount of budget mixed in with bling but with lower incomes predominantly among trail riders).

Whistler Bike Park couldn't divulge visitor numbers for 2012 but did provide other statistics to show that the visitor breakdowns from 2007 are fairly consistent in terms of nights stayed and mix of riders but with a one year anomaly that visitors got younger and income level dropped in 2012. RMOW (ie Whistler Muni) kindly provided raw trail usage numbers which showed trail useage by total visitors basically staying the same from 2008 to 2012. Although the 2007 MBTA survey badly needs updating a reasonable Wild Ass Guess can be made that its data is still useful and/or somewhat representative.
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MTB Tourism examples.

Lost Lake - Whistler


Album title says it all

Top of the World - Whistler

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Squamish

Squamish is another area which benefited from the 2007 MBTA Sea-to-Sky study. Another recent 2014 study from SORCA produced some eye-popping numbers showing astounding growth.

The 2007 study found that 49% of mountain bikers on Squamish trails were visitors with 30% of these visiting riders coming from far destinations. The vast majority were male (71%). 8,900 riders over the study period (594/week) used Squamish trails with the majority of visiting riders (47%) being in the 30-39 category .That same study found that Squamish visitors spent a healthier chunk of cash if they were same-day ($93) vs overnight ($54) reflecting the survey findings that many visitors ate in Squamish pre and post-ride. 21% of riders overnighted in Squamish

The 2014 Squamish study found that 75% of trail users were visitors (a large increase); jumping to 85% on the Half Nelson landmark trail. The sausage factor dropped considerably over the past 7 years with male percentage dropping to 55% showing that Squamish trails drew increasing female ridership. The study counted 1339 riders over a three day weekend. A conservative projection estimated rider counts at 1920 visitors/week; 640 locals/week. It was then projected that 25,000 riders visited Squamish on just weekends over the riding season (26 weekends) roughly doubling that number when including weekdays. 40% stayed overnight spending $ 215 per person per trip or approx $80/day (average stay was 2.5 days). Day visitors spent $ 37 per day.

Accordingly Squamish has seen dramatic increase in rider volume. Per an interview with Jeff Cooke (SORCA president), it is hypothesized this is driven by the quality of trails, growing reputation of Squamish as a riding destination, the PR generated by signature trails like Half and Full nelson, PR generated by videos posted by world class riders and videographers living and riding in Squamish, the highway improvements and last but not least, the growth of mountain biking in general in the region (ie uptick in average cost of bikes, popularity and growth of race series in the corridor etc).
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MTB Tourism examples.

Half Nelson


MTB Tourism examples.

Hueso

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North Shore

The 2007 MBTA study found that 55% of mountain bikers were visitors (counting only North Shore residents as locals). 18,700 riders/week used Shore trails with the majority of visiting riders (47%) being in the 30-39 category and the vast majority being male (85%). Only 12% of riders came from further destinations ie areas outside the Sea to Sky corridor; a reason for that low number commonly cited was the perceived technical difficulty of Shore trails.

Very few riders (9%) overnighted on the North Shore reflecting the fact that the vast majority of non-resident Shore riders stayed in other places in Greater Vancouver. Reflecting this same fact, daily spend was low for visitors to the Shore ($39 sameday/$48 overnight)

There have been no updates to the North Shore 2007 MBTA EIA. While it is possible that the addition of a leg of the BC Bike Race to North Vancouver and the development of easier trails may increase out-of-town ridership that is just speculation at present
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A day after 30mm of rain in 24 hours Trevor Sharon and I rode one of the few trails on Fromme built to take it.

Mount Fromme


http www.northshoreripper.com trilogy euro-enduro - June 9 2012

Mount Seymour during a North Shore Bike Fest enduro race

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Rossland

This interior town of 3,500 people has punched above its weight in the mountain biking world for a long time now and was the subject of a BC provincial government funded EIA in 2013. It has the benefit of professional bike advocacy via the KCTS and the signature Seven Summits trail.

54% of mountain bikers on Rossland trails were visitors; curiously the EIA didn't provide estimated visitor counts. Almost all the visitors travelled some distance to get there with a significant number (23%) coming from outside Canada. Collectively 85% of all visitors were 25 - 54 years old with the youngest category being, by a small margin the largest; 25 to 34 years old (32%), followed by 35 to 44 years old (28%) and 45 to 54 years old (26%). Rossland travellers are a prosperous lot with almost half (48%) having household incomes of over $100K. The visitors were a pretty motivated crowd with most reporting spending an average of 4.5 hours/day on their bikes.

As can be expected for a destination far from bigger cities, almost all visitors to Rossland were on extended roadtrips. Visitors tended to stay between 3- 9 days in the Rossland area (other BC'ers stayed 3 days, internationals and other Canadians stayed the longest at 8 to 9 days). Many visitors were travelling as a couple (84%) or as a family with kids (36%). Spend was an average of $63/day during trips with costs decreasing as length of stay increased.
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MTB Tourism examples.

Seven Summits

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Golden

Golden is a town of 3,700 people located near the Alberta/BC border. It also received the benefit of a 2013 BC-funded EIA. Mostly known for the Mount 7 ultra gnar downhill race the trail system is now a bit more diversified from the gravity crowd but it still attracts a fair amount of riders to ride the Mount 7 and Kicking Horse downhill trail systems.

A large proportion (75%) of riders on Golden trails were visitors; as with the Rossland EIA no estimated visitor numbers were provided. Only 20% were from other parts of BC with the vast majority of others (75%) being from Alberta. US and other international numbers were negligible. 46% of the mountain bike visitors were 25 - 34 years old, 26% were 35 to 44 y.o., and 14% under the age of 24. 50% had incomes of greater than $100k.

Many visitors were on extended road trips of 7 days or greater with the average stay in Golden being 3 days. Visiting mountain bikers spent an average of $ 87/day
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Double rainbow over Pivot Mach 5.7

Storm over Canmore; not Golden but I've got no pictures of our rides there

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Williams Lake

Located in central interior BC Williams Lake has been featured in countless freeride movies. The town is forward-looking and extremely supportive of mountain biking to the extent of organizing free mtb shuttles this summer of 2014. A 2012 EIA from the local umbrella advocacy group (the Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium) documents the growth of the sport and the attempt of local bikers to not just showcase DH but also the diverse pedalling trails in the region (also see this PB article about Williams Lake pedalling trails)

The remarkable aspect of mountain biking in the Williams Lake area is its growth; an increase in visitors of 21% over the past two years admittedly from a relatively small base (7100 in 2010 to 10,160 in 2012). 43% of riders were visitors (23% from surrounding communities; 20% from outside the Cariboo region). Outside Cariboo region riders increased by 10% in the past two years. No demographic drilldowns were provided but it was assumed that visitor profiles were largely in line with the rest of the province. Visitors largely camped or stayed on tight budgets spending $ 19/day (daytrippers) and $ 77 (overnighters).
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MTB Tourism examples.

On the Fox Mountain Trails

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Oregon

The 2012 McNamee study conducted an EIA of selected Oregon events occurring in the Bend/Oakridge areas and consequently is useful only as a sample set for event participants.

65% of mountain bikers in those events were visitors. The majority (73%) were older at 25 - 44 years old (44% were 25 - 34; 29% were 35-44). Also a prosperous crowd 43% had household incomes greater than $ 100,000. Average length of stay and average spent per day was comparable to non mountain biking visitors to Bend (3.9/nights; $99/day vs 4.2 nights/$96/day).

That 2012 study is an interesting compare/contrast to the 2008 Weigand EIA re the Portland area. This 2008 Portland study is for all bicycling (including commuting and road) and nicely wraps up comparative studies for Colorado (2000), Maine (2001) and Wisconsin (2006). In all cases, bicycling generated significant revenue and jobs either through daily activity or through attracting visitors by way of events and tours. Wisconsin's study reported per day average spend subtracting event fees of $ 60/day. Maine's study showed much longer average bike tour durations for cycle touring (4- 7 days) compared to mountain biking with average spending ranging from approx $ 60 - $80/day.
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MTB Tourism examples.

Alpine Trail - on a Mountain Bike Oregon trip

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Santa Cruz

Local Santa Cruz mountain biking advocates produced an EIA in 2007 for Santa Cruz County. Located on the Pacific coast just SW of the Bay Area this town of 60,000 people is relatively close to densely populated areas. It relates that visitors are primarily in the mid 20s to 40s year old range but doesn't provide supporting figures. Numbers are provided here just for comprehensiveness.
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MTB Tourism examples.

Clearly not Santa Cruz - sorry I've not biked there so this is filler

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Moab

Moab is one of the longest-term fixtures in the mountain-bike scene and accordingly the most data exists for this small town located in eastern Utah. A 1997 study of the Adirondacks region of is useful ironically because it cites historical data from Moab gleaned from this 1996 article by Fix and Loomis which is unavailable online. No primary data was obtained from Adirondacks biking areas (primarily in the Lake Placid area). The Fix and Loomis 1996 study relates that in Moab the average stay was 4 days with the average spend per day being $ 55. Average of visitors was 27, considerably younger than contemporary averages, an interesting observation.

The 2011 Headwaters Economics EIA updates information generally about public land usage in Grand County UT (Moab is the largest town in that county). Mountain bikers at 17% of all visitors (2nd only to hiking contributed 200,500 visits to the BLM-managed lands in the Moab area. A 2002 survey of Slickrock trail riders showed that 98% were visitors, 79% we male, with the majority having household incomes of greater than $80,000/year. Most (67%) were between the ages of 21 and 35 (although 29% were over 34); showing that Moab, like Whistler, attracts a younger set of riders.

Overnight vIsitors to Moab outside National Parks were a majority of users (64%) and as a whole (hikers, bikers, OHV users etc.) spent a good deal of money per day; much more than other destinations . The $206/day figure includes a good chunk for local gas and transportation ($38 ). Although there are no separate break outs for mountain bikers the raw numbers hint at a remarkable increase in per day spending over the 1996 historicals.
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For an article on Pinkbike about riding in Moab

Porcupine Rim in Moab

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Bellingham

With 80,000 residents the Ham is not small by any means but the running locals joke is that it's the closest you can get to Whistler without becoming a bacon eating hoser. Bellingham has developed an incredibly passionate and diverse trailbuilding scene centred around legal trails (Galbraith, Padden) and unsanctioned trails that were kept on the down low until land manager's chainsaws felled them. Many Bellingham residents moved to this town specifically for the biking and outdoors scene foregoing the brighter lights of other cities. Many road-trippers making the trek up I-5 make this town's trails a must-stop.

The 2014 WMBC (Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition) survey provides profiles of Bellingham riders. Conducted over winter to spring 2014 this survey was online-based. Demographics were in-line with other areas (ie males 30-49, avid and frequent riders, with household incomes of $50,000+). Visitors comprised 31.5% of total ridership (most visiting from Other WA and from BC). Their profile was also unsurprising. More affluent than locals (67% had household incomes greater than $70,000/year), visitors returned often (72% visit at least quarterly) and spend significant sums (59% spend $20-60 per trip). No breakdowns were provided differentiating between overnight visits vs day visits or obtaining data concerning average duration of stay.
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MTB Tourism examples.

Not actually on Bellingham trails but at least it's the same state - on a road trip to Mt St Helens

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Switzerland

Tourism Switzerland supplied numbers reports that 11.8% of all visitors to Switzerland in 2010 mountain-biked; far outnumbered by the largest user group hikers/walkers (68% ). However to put it in context more visitors travelled for mountain biking than for snowsports, tennis or golf, for example. 2014 figures from the Swiss federal government "Swiss Sports" (see pg 42) shows that as a percentage of the population mountain biking is among the more popular activities (4%) in 8th place; above ski-touring, tennis or golf. Skiing is by far the most popular activity with hiking being the most popular summer activity (17.6%)

Swiss studies from Graubunden dated 2012 (trans.) provide some cursory information about visitors to this Swiss canton. Graubunden mountain bike visitors are mostly 40 years old, predominantly male (67%) and are from other areas of Switzerland. Trail bikers stay an average of 2.7 days; downhillers stay an average of 4.7 days. Mountain bikers were high value spending an average of 159 CHF/day (higher than other visitors who spent an average of 128-140 CHF/day).

A 2013 Masters Thesis by Schallteger provides mountain bikers comparables for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The thesis is long and deals with several issues so see Appendix C (pg 122) for profiles of mountain biking tourists. They are overwhelmingly male (89%); and 25 - 44 years old (60%). The majority of visitors to the areas in questions are German (50%), then Swiss (40%). Other regions are mere rounding errors except for Austrians (5%). High-incomes were not as overly represented in visitors to these regions as in North American with 33% having household incomes of more than EUR45,000/year (47% with household incomes less than EUR45,000/year). No information was provided on average spend/day.

A 2003 study by Heer also presented some demographic data about mountain bikers comparing them to hikers but without distinguishing between visitors and locals. Data presented just for completeness follows. Mountain bikers were overwhelmingly male (87%; hikers were evenly split male/female). Mountain bikers were younger (77% younger than 45 years old; 36% of hikers younger than 45 y.o.)
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Lauberhorn downhill

The Lauberhorn downhill in the Grindelwald/Jungfrau area

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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom doesn't have the terrain that its more storied European cousins in the Alps have but they have worked hard at developing "trail centers" where people travel to mountain bike. There is consequently data about this activity. The 2008 Gajda Study is perhaps one of the best compilations of data about how and why mountain bikers make a choice to travel. Largely conducted online from IMBA UK membership, the Gajda study developed visitor profiles that were consistent with that found elsewhere in the world.

UK bikers who travelled were avid, mostly into pedalling, overwhelmingly male (97%) and mostly between 30-39 years old (57%). With 70% having incomes of greater than f £30,000 per year they are a prosperous lot

Spending habits surveyed were limited to Welsh and Scottish centres. Of 135,000 mountain-biking users at Welsh trail centres, 35% of riders in Welsh trail centres were overnight visitors; 24% day-trippers. Scotland was the outstanding performer in the UK region with 600,000 visitor nights taken up largely by mountain biking visitors. Average stay was an outstanding 5 nights, average spend was £33/day. Of note the UK rider appears to be very acquainted with travelling for biking with over 80% having taken an overnight trip to go ride.

A 2007 Guide to Mountain Bike Tourism in Scotland (free but registration required) also provides useful data. It's worth noting that Tourism Scotland's 2013 study dives into details about the importance of cycling tourism generally to Scotland and is useful in the context of providing gross comparables. However mountain-biking's segregated impact isn't broken out limiting usefulness of data.

From the 2007 guide - 600,000 riders per year travelled to Scotland for the purpose built trails; 22.5 stayed overnight. Note that the total number of visiting riders to Scotland's purpose built trail centres per year is THREE TIMES that of Moab, the Noram leader. Counting those outside the trail centres (there were more visitors) total visitors to Scotland's trails to mountain bike was 1.3 million/ year. Day visitors only spent £12.50/day; overnight visitors spent between £32 (Scottish - hold the jokes) to £45/day (non-Scottish). The 2007 study's visitor profile was largely in-line with the Gajda Study with the possible exception that the average age of visiting riders was found to be slightly younger (24-35) and not quite as male-dominated.
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Day 3 of our trip. Sapper Hill - a hike-a-bike and an old-school technical descent. Euros who can hop turn will love this trail. I loved this trail so I guess I m an Euro

While I've never been to Scotland to ride I somehow always imagine it would look something like this.

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Conclusion

So why is this important? As an advocate for mountain biking, I believe its good to know your material. And the material is generally favourable showing lots of positive facts; ie that mountain biking travel is growing & is a significant activity and that mountain biking tourism is a significant contributor to local economies. Perhaps that will help other mountain biking advocates increase support of the sport either among local governments or the business community. At the very least perhaps it will go further in dispelling stereotypes about people who mountain bike.

This article might also go some ways to explain why if you complain about those dorky tourism promo videos being so boring and why-oh-why are they featuring a bunch of old XC geeks then let me blunt; you're not the target market. Statistically, either you don't travel because you're dead broke or when you travel you go super-budget (top ramen, camping in Walmarts, panhandling tubes at the trailhead). Bottom line is that the 30 - 45 crowd travels, they're mostly male, they're relatively well off, don't mind spending a bit of money, spend a fair amount of time on bike and like to pedal. Indeed what data exists shows that the age of mountain bike travellers has gone up over the past decade. One can reasonably conclude that this has happened because sport has become more popular among older people or that the 27 year olds of 1997 are now the 43 year olds of 2013 and still travelling to ride. Having said that the average age of visitors to the most popular destinations (Whistler and Moab being by far the destination attracting the most visitors) is noticeably younger.

The common thread among the various destinations surveyed is that there is an EIA and therefore, some data about the economic impacts of biking for these destinations/areas. Another commonality is that these areas have healthy trail systems, a strong local community and a strong local bike culture steeped in trail building and advocacy volunteerism. Tourists don't come to places unless these unquantifiable things exist; that healthy local scene, trail system and culture is basically a prerequisite. Unfortunately, for the most part, governments take the volunteer effort for granted. It is hoped that this article will show that some (any) investment in supporting local trail groups will return dividends not just in quality of life for a local community but also in terms of hard economic impacts.

In conclusion, mountain biking has dramatic positive economic impacts; even a simple cursory glance of the EIA's show that. It's my experience that a thriving local scene with good trails and outstanding local community doesn't just add quality-of-life for locals but also tends to attract visitors from elsewhere (Smithers, Burns Lake anyone?). Outside visitors can be the icing on the cake for a strong local mountain biking community, bringing in outside money, bringing in new (hopefully good) ideas and reminding locals that, yes --- they do have it good.
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88 Comments

  • + 23
 I love your image of what you imagine Scotland to look like, how wrong your imagination is. We do love our riding though and have a freat scene over here. Our mountains dont have trees up top, we cut them down a few hundered years ago. It rains, is winds and we have midges..... we dont have fire roads to the top or lots of lift accessed trails. We have this stuff called mud, and tree roots which are slippery when wet, nothing like vancoover to Whistler. Dust is a rare thing, when it is dusty we have no idea what to do. Haha But we do love our bikes.
  • + 7
 That image is not a million miles off Scotland- just imagine it a lot darker, and with rain blowing sideways across the lens Smile
  • + 2
 betsie - Sounds great.
  • + 3
 Well I didn't have any Oor Wullie cartoons to put up
  • + 6
 "We have this stuff called mud, and tree roots which are slippery when wet, nothing like vancoover to Whistler."

Whaaatt????

Perhaps I'm being obtuse and missing sarcasm Smile
  • + 4
 Bloody midges.
  • + 2
 The PNW has plenty of tree roots and mud, if that isn't abundantly obvious.
  • + 3
 Haha! Cute... Come ride during a Scottish Winter and we'll show you what mud really is Wink F*ck it, come during summer, it's much the same!

I have to agree with Betsie (having actually ridden on the North Shore with him a few years ago) that even in the pissing rain, the amount of grip on North Shore trails is unreal. The mud is magical- it doesn't seem to go slick as oil, like the stuff we have back home.

I live down in SW England now (perhaps the only place I've ever ridden which is muddier than Scotland) but if I end up living back up in Scotland, you'd be welcome to come stay and see what winter riding is really about Smile
  • + 3
 Honestly you're both not selling English or Scottish riding well at all ;>
  • + 6
 Maybe it's a double-bluff: Perhaps we don't get any mud or rain or wind over here, and the trails are numerous and perfect all the time. We're just telling you all that stuff so people don't flock over to ride our awesome trails, and we can keep them to ourselves.

Or, possibly you just need to have an extra degree of manliness to ride here Wink
  • + 1
 @leelau it;s better to know the truth before you get there, then afterwards Wink . All in all, with all the rain and wind and clouds, I think Scotland is a great place to ride, I mean c'mon we only have a life, we need to try everything right? Big Grin Btw, great article!
  • + 2
 Well damn, guess I need to put my big-boy pants on and go ride Scotland. Been meaning to go there for the pubs alone, anyway. And the scenery is unreal!
  • + 2
 Oh, and I need to do some single malt tasting, too Smile
  • + 3
 You'd be welcome any time Smile
  • + 1
 Here in Squamish, we have an Angry Midget ! Big Grin
  • + 1
 I wish Ireland was at least the same, a mountain biker in Dublin is treated almost like an enemy of the state. Last time it took me 3 hours to get to my nearest trail.
  • + 11
 Lee, this kind of article is why I stick around here. Excellent. This information is far more likely to ensure there is a chance that continued access is available for people to ride their bikes off road rather than a staunch belief in "freedom" to ride where we want. As you say, advocacy requires knowledge. Read and learn everyone, you never know when you might need it.
  • + 4
 I agree. Well written and researched. It's like legit editorial rarely seen on bike sites
  • + 3
 Very helpful for business' of all sorts near or related to bike destinations.
It also shows how the sport/hobby is maturing. The author noted how the sport is getting more 'respect' as a growing market. That wil attract investors and that will be good for all of us. If you build it they will come.
  • + 7
 Lee, here are a few more resources for your list...

Gajda, M. (200Cool . U.K. Mountain Biking Tourism – An Analysis of Participant Characteristics, Travel Patterns and Motivations in the Context of Activity and Adventure Tourism, Masters Dissertation, Napier University, Edinburgh, U.K., International Mountain Biking Association U.K
imba.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/DISSERTATION_MICHAL_GAJDA.pdf

Mason, P., Leberman, S. (2000). Local Planning for Recreation and Tourism: A Case Study of Mountain Biking from New Zealand’s Manawatu Region, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol, 8, No. 2, 2000 www.boker.org.il/meida/negev/desert_biking/bike_environ/jost0080097.pdf

Scottish Mountain Bike Development Consortium
www.visitscotland.org/research_and_statistics/tourism_sectors/outdoor_activities/cycling.aspx
  • + 3
 Thank you! Included these and a visitor profile from Bellingham
  • + 5
 Amazing compilation of research and insights. So awesome to have all this data in one place!

I wanted to add a few more sources of research that Travel Oregon (the States Tourism Development and Marketing Agency) commissioned to your list. Although not mountain bike specific, they provide great insight to the specifics of what the bike travel market looks like in Oregon, as well as what the industry means to the state. The below studies combined with MacNamee's study provide great context as to what is happening on the ground with our booming bike culture.

Bike Travel Research:
industry.traveloregon.com/research/archive/the-economic-significance-of-bicycle-related-travel-in-oregon-2012-dean-runyan-associates

Bike Industry in Oregon Research:
industry.traveloregon.com/research/archive/the-economic-significance-of-bicycle-related-travel-in-oregon-2012-dean-runyan-associates
  • + 7
 I read 15% and only paid 8% attention while I was reading. I enjoyed the pictures 100% while using 2% of my brain to think of a comment to put.
  • + 2
 68.72 percent right there with you but other parts of the brain were not polled.
  • + 15
 I chose to only read 26% of it. Cuz reading 27.5% or 29% is what the industry wants us to read.
  • + 5
 I read 29% of the article and found myself floating over words not fully understanding the text.
  • + 5
 Look at any Subaru rolling into town with a bunch of ENVE'd out carbon Santa Cruz's on the back, dropper posts, etc... and tell me those guys don't have any money to spend! Post ride IPA's, tubes, burgers, hotel,. Okay unless you are me and my brother camping in parking lots, eating at McDonalds XD.
  • + 12
 McDonalds is way more expensive than buying nutritional food from a grocery store. probably why you're broke?
  • + 2
 I dunno. Tubes + tires is about the same price as tubeless tires
  • + 5
 I highly recommend not eating McDonald's or any fast food!!
  • + 3
 "Fast food" does not make you faster
  • + 4
 'The 2014 Squamish study found that 75% of trail users were visitors (a large increase); jumping to 85% on the Half Nelson landmark trail. The sausage factor dropped considerably over the past 7 years with male percentage dropping to 55% showing that Squamish trails drew increasing female ridership.'

Soo true, there are an amazing numbers of females riding in Squamish. Great to see. Almost an attraction in it's self.

Probably the best natural trails in the world too..
  • + 3
 Yeah! I was also stoked to see the nearly even numbers in Squamish. That's pretty amazing. It's wild how many more people are riding here too. A few years ago it was rare to see other people on the trails. Now it's pretty busy. SORCA has done such an amazing job maintaining and building here, and I'd give them pretty much all the credit for making Squamish riding what it is.
  • + 3
 Thanks for your effort in writing this article Lee- a great resource! Hopefully it'll be just the data that other mtb advocacy's around the world can use in order to convince local governments to assist in mtb trails and systems.
  • + 3
 Great post, Lee! As a company (Sacred Rides) that benefits directly from mountain bike tourism, I can definitely say that mountain biking has a tremendously positive impact on communities - when it's done right. And particularly in the developing world, where our customers, and other mountain bikers, can provide a significant income for communities.
  • + 3
 As northern and central Utah's mountain biking scene reemerges, it's been very interesting to observe the differences between those who embrace it and those who resist it... Which yes, actually is happening.

What many people still are afraid to admit (or simply don't know yet) is that mountain biking and MTB-related tourism is not only a viable economic investment, but a seriously profitable future possibility for Utah and other areas... Especially with climate change and the decreases in our snowpack and traditional ski seasons.

Excellent article, and a very informative read; you're absolutely right about arming ourselves with empirical data in order to support tourism growth and expand community bike development plans. Thank you for focusing on the business side of what we love! Bravo!
  • + 1
 I want to go to Moab, any suggestions? What time of year is best, and any bed & breakfast joints where I can lock up my bike? shops or guides I could contact? Also want to go to Sedona next winter.....too many wants?
  • + 3
 This is an extremely well-researched article that weighs heavy in the eyes of city councils, city managers, & corporate investors. EIA's are a powerful tool to keep our trails open despite resistance.

Thank you for doing the tedious work that's often overlooked in our youthful ignorance.

I'll be forwarding this to my local mtb club.
  • + 3
 Lee, you mention Whistler saw 25000 trail riders of Which 90% are over night visitors.
Overnight visitor stays in hotels or B&B or property managed homes are subject to MRDT (2% of the nightly rate)
This Municipal Regional and District Tax ultimately feeds back to the municipality.. So, these visiting riders are contributing to the municipals operational budget.
Now.. how much of that MRDT does WORCA see? The community that is actively creating and maintaining the trails that are drawing many of these visitors into Whistler!
The Municipality does kick back into WORCA's coffers, but what about those benefiting directly from the sales of accommodation?
Imagine the boost to WORCA's mandate to open the alpine XC trail if they had even a share of this money to work with!

Based on the info you report, of this 25000, 90% stay overnight (for 4.5 nights) Their spend is $94.. so lets say $50/day is accommodation subject to MRDT
Thats somewhere in the region of $5million dollars in revenue the accommodation providers are seeing and iro $100,000 in MRDT generated by these trail riders alone.
An injection of $172500 would see the alpine dream trail open bu the end of the summer I reckon! (thats 3.45% of the total revenue generated with accommodation sales)

www.worca.com/sproatt-alpine-mulit-use-trail

Come on hotels, property managers, grocery stores, restaurants and all.. step up!
  • + 2
 That is a point that I believe WORCA may be trying to make and hopefully this article is useful in that regard
  • + 2
 The Go Pro Games in Vail brought in over 5million in revenue to Vail in less than a week! Granted its more than biking but that kind of income doesn't go unnoticed. Down here in Eagle we hosted the Colorado State mountain bike championships last fall and the net revenue for the weekend was over 500 thousand for the weekend. The locals that complained about the town spending 50 grand on the trails needed for the races. Quickly changed their tune. We got together and built a BMX track as well, and it's always packed every Thursday for races. Both my son and daughter race BMX and the skills they've learned are paying huge dividends on the trails. Love riding bikes with my kids. Build great single track and we will come. We've already done 4 bike trips this year and have a few more scheduled.
  • + 3
 Love it Lee, I reiterate Liam's comment, great timing with tons of attention coming to Northern BC. Real numbers on an alternate land resource revenue stream to the status quo of mines, mills and fossil fuels.
  • + 6
 Hi Lee, such a great article...thanks for gatthering all the data
  • + 2
 Great article! In the past few years many areas seem to have figured out mountain biking brings tourism dollars. Fruita CO has transformed itself into a major mountain biking destination from almost nothing 15 years ago. Whitefish Montana has started an ambitious new trail system. The New Zealand Cycle Trail project is building a world class network of trails throughout the country to benefit both locals and attract international tourist. I have seen many new trails popping up in Moab, Sedona, Bend, Squamish, Courtney, Fernie, and Whistler. Most of them are built specifically for mtn. bikers. It has been a wonderful transformation to experience. Sedona and Moab's Slick Rock trail charge a fee to park at the trailheads. It's a bit of a pain but the revenue has funded new trails, signage, toilets, and parking lots. Thank you for your tireless advocacy for mountain biking. It's working!
  • + 1
 Impacts of Mountain Bike Tourism on Communities

leftcoastinsights.com/impacts-of-mountain-bike-tourism-on-communities

In his blog post “Economic Impacts of Mountain Biking Tourism”, Lee Lau of Pinkbike.com has done an excellent job of synthesizing the economic impacts of developing mountain biking as a tourism attraction for our communities. Like cycling in general, mountain biking may be viewed primarily as a recreational activity, without much thought on how this phenomenon contributes to investment in supporting infrastructure and services, as well as some of the other less-tangible outcomes of mountain biking for communities.
  • + 1
 Reading the article just made me realize my wonderfull country will never be a MTB "savy" destination..too bad..we have mountains ..not as big as Canada or the Alps but enough..and yet no one sees the potential for this spory.The benefits would be vast..almost every bike park in the world doubles as a sky resort in the winter.Yet no dumb ass hotel owner or simply someone who could make it possibke does anything in this direction..so I ride on the hills closer to home..
  • + 1
 Great article. I know it didn't really cover Fruita, but I had a question about it I was hoping someone could help with.
I'm working on a trails website that includes a section on economic benefits. Searching around, I keep seeing this claim that mountain biking adds $25 million a year (!) to the local economy. The number seems unusually high, especially given how new the scene is, and I'm extra suspicious because I can't seem to find a verified source for it - it mostly just seems to get passed around by word of mouth. Best I can tell, it originated in this article:
velonews.competitor.com/2011/05/news/fruita-fat-tire-festival-its-all-about-the-ride_15863

with no source given for the dollar figure.

The only credible number I can find is from a 2004 study that estimated $1.5 million, which is a far cry from $25 million.

Anyone know where this $25 million figure comes from?
  • + 1
 I would ask the organizers of the FFTF. Either Troy Rarick or Sarah Withers or perhaps the current owners of Over the Edge - Ross Schnell might know
  • + 1
 Thanks!
  • + 3
 Probably the most important article written in the last little while in terms of preserving the future of the sport. Money talks.
  • + 1
 Even in the area, where I live in flat Denmark we have some mtb tourism (xc). It's not huge, but good enough to make a living of. The potential is huge, but its hard to convince the local government and others, that we need to invest in trails, if we want to catch this opportunity.
  • + 1
 I'm an Albertan who just road tripped through BC and spent quite a bit of money on accommodation and IPA in: Golden, Revelstoke, Whistler, Squamish… Great trails in all spots. I'd support a % of my "tourism levy" from accommodations going to the local trail clubs.
  • + 1
 From what I am reading here, supposedly most mountain bikers have an annual household income of 80-100k or more??? I don't know who these people are, but most of the riders I know or have ever met make less than half that!!! Matter of fact, even most non-riding households that I know of make less than 60k! Where do they get these stats from?!?!? They seem a bit off to me!
  • + 1
 Depends on where you live I suppose. Out West that's not a lot of money to live on.
  • + 1
 tmwjr777 - that number is for mountain bikers who travel to ride their bikes. Travelling mountain bikers tend to be wealthier
  • + 1
 Very extensive article. Congratulations!
More and more communities are realizing the potential of mountain biking tourism much faster than local and national authorities.
Volunteers are to be thanked for that.

East Burke in Vermont may be the most striking example on east "coast".

Laurentides mountains in Quebec, known for its tourism economy, has one fast developping network of some hundreds km spread on nearly 10 areas in 50km radius. It is 95% free! Come try that out!
  • + 1
 The City of Chattanooga,Tn has invested in new trails and a positive outdoor environment. The investment has been a good one. I consistently meet riders from out of town spending multiple days in our city. There are enough quality trails to ride something different every day for a weeks stay. Just as importantly, there's options off the bike as well. Build trails, not expensive golf courses.
  • + 2
 I'd totally live in Chatty if the right job presented itself. Definitely becoming the cheaper Asheville alternative.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the article Lee! All I know is that I am in that market age bracket and even though I do not go on Mtn Bike trips outside where I live (Coquitlam, burb outside Vancouver) very year, I am riding every weekend with my friends. Every time we ride local, or on the Shore, we are always make it a habit of dropping some $$$ at the local coffee shops and restaurants to chat about our rides, gear and our next ride. When we ride some of us would make a comment after a sweet run say on Expresso, "that was a blast, where do I pay"? I guess spending a $$ on that day is kinda like paying for the ride! Anyways Mtn biking is a Live and well where I live. And I hope to go to Bend Oregon this summer and spend my CDN Dollas down there. And next year it's Phoenix. Cheers!
  • + 1
 I'd like to see a study that compares the methodology, and the outcomes (particularly the demographics) for the mountain bike studies with that of studies focused on other recreation and tourism sectors (such as fishing, sightseeing, and skiing). This is all very good information, and really shows the importance of MTB to local economies. It would be very helpful to be able to place it in a more generalizable format so that wider implications and comparisons can be drawn. Great article.
  • + 1
 The Canadian Tourism Commission collects demographic data for all visitors but probably doesn't break it down vertical market by vertical. That's the closest dataset that comes to mind
  • + 2
 impressively researched, when there really isn't too much data to go on. well written. share this post, garner support for your local trails
  • + 2
 Im trying to transform my cyty in an MTB meca and this article will help me a lot. Will translate it and show to the politics here. Thanks PB
  • + 1
 I mean city hahahaha
  • + 1
 I got a good laugh when I got to "The sausage factor..."! The article has such a research article feel to it and then boom!! Interesting read though.
  • + 1
 Trail builders often don't realize the value of the trails they produce. A few years ago Whistler estimated that the minimum cost to build a singletrack trail is $30/meter.
  • + 1
 I would like to know how much raced like BC Bike Race beat up local trails and how much the community gets back for their rehab.
  • + 1
 BC Bike Race is an example of an event that gives dollars back to the local community and does trailwork before the event. I had the opportunity of reading their draft EIA and their numbers are impressive
  • + 2
 That was the most well researched and cited article ever posted on Pinkbike. Good job.
  • + 1
 Good timing! MBTA just in PG today. Hope to see more northern bc stats and info in the near future, with the upcoming northern bc mtb tourism strategy.
  • + 1
 Great article, very impressed with the Squamish statistics. Glad I live here, come visit, you'll love it too!
  • + 2
 great article, very interesting read
  • + 1
 Peru is one of the best destinations for mountain biking, check www.intibike.com MTB eXpeditions for photos and videos!
  • + 1
 not really relevant to the theme, but: www.mtb-downhill.net/football-vs-downhill
  • + 1
 Looks like leelau.net has been suspended as I couldn't get to the study pdfs. I guess that means there's interest;-)
  • + 1
 Henry - try this. Had it as a backup www.dropbox.com/home/EIS/EIS%20bike. Information is identical
  • + 2
 great article! to the point and very resourceful. thanks lee!
  • + 1
 Thank you for gathering the information.
  • + 1
 Great article and well written.
  • + 1
 PORTUGUESE MAYORS DOESN´T UNDERSTAND THIS!!!!
  • + 2
 so nice!
  • + 1
 Nice write up, very interesting to see the actual numbers at play!
  • + 0
 My Master's Thesis was about mountain biking lol.
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