Tourism Intelligence Scotland spoke to one local who has a unique perspective on the development of sports-led tourism to get an insider’s view.
Lynne Armstrong, (or Aitchison as known here in the mountain biking fraternity), has been immersed in Scottish mountain biking for many years—as a downhill racer, stunt rider, coach and women’s biking event organiser. She now lives in Pemberton in British Columbia, Canada, and has been able to compare how differing attitudes among local people can impact on the development of tourism.
The full package
“While some people like to organise their own holidays from scratch, many look for packages, making it easier to book all the elements of their holiday with one contact,” she says.
“I’ve noticed that here in Pemberton, local businesses have identified the opportunities which mountain biking brings and have develop bespoke packages which include accommodation, bike hire, trail guiding and tuition. When one business can’t supply the complete package they work in partnership with other businesses to ensure the visitor receives the service they are looking for.”
Closer than you think
While Pemberton is a farming community which is only a few kilometres up the road from the world-famous ski and mountain biking resort of Whistler, it has similarities with the Scottish Borders towns such as Innerleithen and Peebles – including a beautiful landscape that offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities.
“Canadians love the outdoors,” Lynne enthuses. “The locals have a real understanding about how important tourism is to the local economy. It’s vital that Scotland can also embrace opportunities to grow its economy in the same way.”
Lynne cites local mountain bike guide and accommodation business owner Andy McKenna as an example of someone who has looked at the needs of the market and created a comprehensive package for mountain bikers visiting the area.
Andy started out by offering local guided tours of the Scottish Borders’ biking trails; today, he runs Go-Where, a full service mountain bike package tour operator and guiding business by getting together with others in that area.
“Andy has cleverly incorporated all the elements that bikers will need during their visit to Innerleithen, for instance he’s installed mountain bike washing and storage facilities at his accommodation,” Lynne explains. “What seems to work most effectively in Canada is when local businesses discuss their offer with mountain bikers and work collaboratively to develop additional products and services to meet visitor needs.”
Refreshing the product
Purpose built mountain bike trails are expensive to build and, with no direct income from riders, it is a challenge to ensure that trails are constantly maintained and upgraded to keep people coming back for a different experience.
“A few years ago, there were a lot of new trails being built and there was a real buzz. The challenge of maintaining the trail networks and ensuring the trails are meeting riders’ expectations, have made landowners shy away from creating a lot of new trails for riders,” Lynne explains.
“The 7stanes has great potential to keep growing, not just with its excellent facilities for beginners to advanced riders – it has amazing potential to claim its international stake as a destination for bigger challenges. It's an exciting time to build up Scotland's mountain biking credentials.
“Finally, we need to look at holding more events like Tweed Love, which is a superb event. But there's scope for far more. Canadian resorts have constant events – there are festivals for everything from music to yoga. It's very diverse and that works incredibly well. We couldn't be luckier with the surroundings in Scotland to draw people with all sorts of interests to come and stay. It's great for bringing non-mountain bikers to the area too, benefitting local businesses.”
In Scotland there are endless opportunities to think more broadly about the opportunities for diversifying and appealing to different interests. It's all about working together.
Mountain Biking Centre of Scotland
Developing Mountain Biking In Scotland
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