Drive to make Scotland a cycling tourism centre

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A BID to establish Scotland as one of the world’s leading cycling destinations will be launched within months after being identified by tourism leaders as one of the industry’s best prospects for growth.

The success of cycling superstars such as Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins is behind the high-profile drive to promote Scotland as a magnet both for mountain bikers and road cyclists. Scotland’s wilderness areas and remote islands are set to take centre-stage in the campaign, which aims to make cycling as much of a draw for visitors as Munro-bagging.

It also aims to capitalise on the popularity of events such as the Etape Caledonia in Perthshire and the Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William over the past decade.

A nationwide bike hire scheme, a series of new cycle networks, a single national route from John O’Groats to Dumfries and Galloway, and the creation of new events are among the ideas under discussion. It is also hoped the campaign will make it easier for cyclists to take their bikes on to public transport, as well as help encourage Scots to explore their own country more.

Experts believe there is huge potential to grow the value of cycling to the economy from its current level of about £300 million through better promotion, new facilities and encouraging cyclists to make the most of other attractions during a biking holiday in Scotland.

The campaign – aimed at establishing Scotland as a “world-class cycle destination where the needs of the visitor come first” – is being jointly pursued by the new National Cycle Tourism Forum, which was set up to bring cycling and public sector bodies together, and the Scottish Tourism Alliance, the main body representing the industry.

Neen Kelly, project manager of the National Cycle Tourism Forum, said: “There is no co-ordinated campaign – or even any funding – to promote cycle tourism at the moment.

“There’s not been any detailed research done into the value of cycle tourism or how it could be expanded in future years, but there’s been a feeling for some time that it needs properly co-ordinated.

“Mountain biking is very popular in Scotland now and is promoted pretty well, but there is huge potential for growth with road cycling, especially with the growing number of events that are now happening every year, and the fact that the Tour of Britain has been to the Borders in the last few years.

“We are now working closely with the Scottish Tourism Alliance for the first time. There is definite room for improvement when it comes to having integrated public transport for cyclists and to make it easier to take bikes on to buses and trains, but it’s also about helping to promote how easy it is to travel by ferry, as Caledonian MacBrayne already allows you to take a bike on their ferries for free.”

Research will study how cycling is promoted and supported in bike-friendly countries such as Denmark and Switzerland, while also looking at which parts of Scotland have well-developed cycling campaigns, such as the Borders.

Scottish Tourism Alliance chief executive Marc Crothall said: “There is no doubt that cycling is a real growth market at the moment, particularly after the success of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy last year.

“Although there are a lot of cycleways and pathways, the trick is to join everything up. We’re very much hoping to be the catalyst.”

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