For riders to enjoy our best destinations requires the businesses within them to deliver a world class experience for visiting riders.
We understood that many businesses may not know how to support this growing market, therefore we sought funding to allow us to work on an exciting, new and innovative suite of resources and tools which will help the Scottish tourism industry, build on its global reputation in the tourism sector and provide a world-class welcome to visiting mountain bikers and cyclists.
Scottishmtbtourism.com is a unique product including an online business self-assessment tool, and business-specific videos, we made with Scotty Laughland, showcasing each key destination's strengths and areas of improvement. With strong calls to action to improve bike storage and other essential/desirable services, downloadable images and videos businesses can use for their own marketing, and information for businesses to improve their understanding of the market and enrich their offering for mountain bike guests. The micro-website is complemented by a printed guide which will be distributed via business workshops and will be sent to accommodation providers across the Highlands.
The project was funded by Highlands & Islands Enterprise through the Northern Innovation Hub, part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal.
In 2022, we ran a series of campaigns including 'Scotland the Hero' and '#MTBFORALL' that aimed to raise the profile of Scotland’s existing world-class offer for mountain biking and strived for Scotland to be recognised as the best destination in the UK to ride.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) forced a monumental shift in the tourism industry and it was recognised that we were now operating in a new tourism landscape. Stimulating domestic visitor demand and extending the season where possible was seen as crucial to Scotland’s immediate tourism recovery.
As part of the Scottish Government support plan to address this, the Destination & Sector Marketing Fund was set up to help stimulate the domestic market and ensure a sustainable recovery going forward.
We applied, and were successful in our application to the Fund as we saw this as a fantastic opportunity to promote Scotland as the best MTB destination in the UK, attract more visitors to our key destinations, encourage responsible tourism, and get some funding into our trail network, to ensure sustainability and help trails association manage the added demands on the trails.
Our campaign reached 6.6m impressions, delivered quality content, and raised the profile of mountain biking in our key destinations across Scotland.
We wanted to focus on 8 key destinations across Scotland. In order to highlight these areas sufficiently and promote the breadth of experiences available, we were able to secure the professional services of Scotty Laughland to create a series of films and imagery to best capture the essence of each destination.
We created 8 ‘Ride Guides’ where we showcase specific destination highlights. Driving visitors to areas with the infrastructure, support, and visitor experiences necessary to ensure an outstanding visit. We are also working with an array of local partners to help grow and develop these destinations so they can continue to develop and grow as sustainable mountain biking destinations.
To help ensure the sustainability of the trail in these areas we were promoting and after searching for a mechanism to help fund local trail associations, we reached out to Expedia. We were impressed by their enthusiasm around how they could help promote sustainable mountain biking tourism in Scotland.
By booking accommodation through the affiliate link in each of the Ride Guides, local trail associations will receive 5% of the booking value.
This is just one step on the journey that we are taking to help secure a sustainable future for mountain biking in Scotland. Working with local trail groups who know and understand their community is key to the long-term vision.
Throughout 2022 we have been running business workshops to inspire, encourage, and support existing mountain bike businesses to keep innovating, collaborating, and improving their level of service to riders.
We have also run workshops, largely in partnership with Destination Management Organisations (DMOs), to help inspire and support those new to the mountain bike market to understand the basics and begin to improve their level of service to riders.
In total, we have worked with 146 businesses in 2022. With workshops and additional support including social media video content training, understanding the mountain bike market, engaging businesses in bike plan trail development, and provided businesses with additional equipment to further grow and improve their offer.
Our business support is largely through our regional co-ordinators and are funded exclusively through regional economic development funding.
We would like to thank Opportunity North East, Scottish Enterprise, and Aberdeenshire Council for supporting our sector, and wider adventure, through North East Adventure Tourism for funding, and supporting, our work in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
In the Highlands, our business development work is supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise and DMOs including Lochaber Chamber of Commerce/Outdoor Capital UK, Cairngorms Business Partnership, Skye Connect, Venture North, Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, and Wester Ross Biosphere.
Our workshops and business support in the Scottish Borders are funded by UK Government, through the Community Renewal Fund, and Scottish Borders Council.
Using evaluations of the impact of these projects we hope to engage more destinations across Scotland in 2023.
We know through personal experience and our research of the mountain bike market that the most important element for an accommodation provider to offer is secure bike storage.
To incentivise accommodation providers to install, or improve, their facilities we have been offering match-funded grants of up to £500 per business.
In 2022, we have helped 39 businesses upgrade their facilities in key destinations in the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, and the Scottish Borders.
Similar to the funding for the business workshop we work hard to secure these grants using regional economic development funding and we hope to be able to roll this model out into more of the key destinations in 2023.
The most important element of a successful mountain bike destination is the trail network.
We work with a range of partners to help develop trail networks that will provide amazing experiences for riders whilst delivering sustainable economic impact to businesses within key destinations.
The strategic planning of the destinations also increases the likelihood of projects receiving funding due to funders understanding how trail projects will deliver to meet their outcomes.
See our recent 'Trails - What's been happening in 2022?' blog post to understand how this planning has led to investment and delivery for our trail network.
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