Ashley Smith-Hammond

Scotland’s breath-taking beauty and scenery make it a popular destination for active holidays and outdoor trips. We look at how your organisation can engage with ecotourism.

Cycling is one popular way to enjoy a wide range of the country’s natural beauty while keeping pollution to a minimum. It doesn’t hurt that cycling’s profile has never been higher following the Olympic successes of cyclists like Sir Chris Hoy!

Recently there has been an evolution towards a more concrete framework for this kind of holiday: ecotourism. Back in 2010, the Telegraph suggested that the ‘Springwatch effect’ was contributing some £65 million a year to the Scottish wildlife tourism industry and the sector has only grown since then. Groups like Trees for Life, which promote volunteering alongside eco-holidays in Scotland, are proof of this growing market.

But visitors aren’t just participating in environmental and outdoor activities on these trips. They’re looking for other cultural events too. By learning more about how cyclists plan their trips and what their needs are, you can make sure these hardy holidaymakers don’t miss out on what your organisation has to offer.

Find out if you are you on a cycle route

The first step in considering this new audience is to work out if you’re actually geographically accessible to them. Visit Scotland operates the National Cycle Network (NCN). Use the NCN’s route mapper to find out quickly if you’re on a popular cycle route. The map also shows which routes are traffic-free and what access is like.

Visit Scotland also operates a Cycling Welcome Scheme. This caters for visitors with an interest in the outdoors and a concern for the environment. You could raise the profile of your venue by getting listed. Organisations will need to provide certain facilities and services such as information on local routes, public transport and weather forecasts to qualify.

Connecting with ecotourist audiences

If you are physically accessible to these audiences, make sure they know you’re there.

There’s a whole host of online resources for cyclists planning trips to Scotland. Getting listed on a site like Bike Events Scotland could attract visitors looking for arts and culture in the countryside.

The charity Sustrans promotes the NCN by reviewing routes and recommending eco-friendly holidays. It also has information on ‘arts routes‘ – trails which feature artworks from internationally renowned artists to projects with local children. Other online spaces like Green Traveller and Blue and Green Tomorrow help visitors plan eco-holidays in Scotland and the UK. Elsewhere, groups like Spokes and Go Bike campaign for improved cycling in Scotland.

Take some time to review these resources to develop your connections and presence with the most relevant organisations.

What do cyclists need from you?

Cyclists will want to know what practical arrangements you can offer. How is your location accessed? Are there regular rest stops nearby and can visitors find accommodation away from busy road networks?

A bike rack that lets cyclists safely lock up expensive equipment will be essential, while offering a secure and dry place inside to store bikes and equipment nets you even more kudos.

If you don’t have a permanent venue, it’s still worth providing info on how cyclists can access your event and where the nearest routes and stop offs are.

If you’re already talking about how great your cycle access is, don’t forget to include information on other forms of wheeled access. Think about how wheelchair users and families with prams will access your venue. If you already have ramps and curb grades in place, make the most of it and let people know on your website and in your marketing.

As environmental awareness grows, ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular. We’ve focused here on Scotland’s countryside, but people are also making the move away from cars in urban areas too; next week we’ll be taking a closer look at how you can catch the attention of cyclists in the city.

Main image credit: Scotland cycling highlands bicycle by Luke Mills (CC0 1.0)