The University of Canberra is hosting a Cycle Tourism Conference and Rail Trail Symposium today and on Friday.
Dennis Puniard, Stephen Parker and Lawrence Pratchett welcomed delegates to the campus and the conference.
After their welcomes the conference started with two keynote addresses by Matt Lamont and Chris Bull.
Matt is one of a small number of academics in Australia with a PhD in cycle tourism. Matt’s keynote presentation had two parts: setting the scene for the conference; and exploring demand side issues (meaning and motives for cycle tourism and understanding experiences through grounded theory approaches).
In his introduction, Matt looked at the cycle tourism literature and identified six issues:
- Outside home environment (how far?)
- Single day or multi day?
- Competitive cycling (travel to compete?)
- Active or passive participation?
- Leisure, recreation or both?
- Cycling as a trip purpose or trip behaviour?
Matt looked at cycling outside the home environment:
- Independent cycle tourist
- Recreational cyclists
- Participatory events
- Spectators (the focus of Matt’s keynote presentation)
- Competitive cyclists
In his review of the literature on cycle tourism, Matt identified four strands: conceptualisation (definitions, market segmentation), socio-economic (expenditure, benefits to host communities), motivations (independent cycle tourists, mass participation events), and destinations (destination attributes, impediments).
In the second part of his talk, Matt explored active spectators as cycle tourists . He asked why do these tourists go on these events and what meanings are constructed from their participation? Matt described his ethnographic approach to answering this question as a participant observer at a Tour de France 2011 tour in the Alps and Paris. Matt kept a field log, photos, and conducted interviews during his time on the tour.
Some key findings from Matt’s qualitative grounded enquiry were:
- The quest for authentic experience (overcoming the tyranny of distance)
- Embodiment (physical connection with unfamiliar landscapes).
- Nostalgia (connecting with the history and heritage of the Tour)
- Visiting shrines on and of the Tour de France
- Nationalism (seeing countrymen in action).
In the second keynote, Chris presented a systematic review of evidence for the local impacts of tourism and leisure cycling. He shared work of the SPEAR unit at Canterbury Christ Church University in preparing a review for Kent County Council. Chris noted the work of Mike Weed and Matt Brown as lead contributors in the review. Kent County Council as the commissioning agency wanted to explore the establishment of cycle ways. A primary question was what would be the social, economic, environmental and health benefits of investment in the most appropriate infrastructure?
Chris shared the methodology of the review process including a literature search for the period 1990-2010 and the use of grey literature (reports and surveys). 50 research reports formed the basis of the review.
The review has identified a segmented market of tourists to the region:
- Near residents
- Far residents
- Near daytrippers
- Far daytrippers
- Near holidayers
- Far holidayers
- Cycle tourers
Chris noted some factors affecting tourism and cycling:
- Traffic free routes (a prerequisite for many tourists, in the UK the National Cycling Network 85% use the one third of the network that is traffic free).
- Other route factors: clear signage and waymarking; route maps and guidebooks; circular routes (but these may attract more cars); accurate distance and cycle time information; routes 15-30 miles average; wide paths for social aspect of cycling.
- Secondary factors: location and scenery (accessibility, connectedness, proximity to holiday areas)
- Social dimensions, health factors (fitness, exercise and a non-sport activity), promotional aspects (non specialist recreation, lycra-free).
Chris suggested that health factors appear to offer a significant saving to the health system. Data indicate that the net health and productivity benefits of the National Cycling Network yields of 295 million pounds sterling from 193 million network journeys. There is evidence to suggest that cycle tourism has any environmental effect other than that experienced through hiking and horse riding.
There are some issues about car use in cycle tourism trails that use circular routes but even here the connectedness may help local residents to reduce their own car use.
Chris concluded his talk with the following points:
- Near and far holiday makers appear to offer most value
- Traffic free cycle routes are very important as destination choice
- There are health care benefits that accrue from cycle tourism
- Environmental implications no greater than other activities.