Dennis Puniard PhD: Cycling Tourists

IMG_0788Dennis Puniard received his PhD at a University of Canberra graduation ceremony in the Great Hall of Parliament on 10 April 2014.

His thesis title is The Role of the Internet and Online Technologies in Destination Choice for Australian Cycling Tourists.

The Abstract of the thesis is:

This research investigates how cycling tourists use online technology to help choose their desired destination for cycling away from their home base. It provides an insight into cycling tourism in Australia, and, in particular, the online world of cycling tourists. The thesis examines the academic literature in respect to tourist motivation, information search models and destination choice modelling. It constructs two conceptual models on the motivations of cycling tourists and their information search patterns.
Whilst we know from statistical data collected over a number of years that cycling is a significant activity for a large number of Australians, we do not have a good knowledge of how many of these cyclists are cycling tourists, either in Australia or overseas. This work, together with that of a small number of other research efforts, is expanding this knowledge base. There is a body of work now that provides some evidence that this is a significant niche sector in tourism.
The elements of online technology explored in this thesis included the use of websites, online maps, blogs, wikis and social media. The research employed a mixed methods approach using focus groups, an online survey and data discovery through a number of online sources. The approach was one of “dominant/less dominant design” where the primary technique used was a quantitative method using an online survey with focus groups and data discovery taking a secondary role.
Much of the previous research in this field has been focussed on a narrow definition of cycle tourism, concentrating on the exploits of recreational cyclists. This research, together with a small body of other research, indicates that cycle tourism is much more than just recreation, with mountain biking now a significant sector. Competitive cycling events and challenge events attract substantial numbers of tourists and are significant contributors to tourism income for regions where they are held.
Through this research the information needs of cycling tourists and how they want to access this information are now better understood. The research has shown that maps are an important information source for cycling tourists and that the cyclists who responded to the online survey used for this research are very active in online forums dedicated to cycling. Social media is identified as an important emerging source for gathering and sharing information about cycling for this group.
Whilst this research has addressed a number of questions related to the use of online technology by cycling tourists, it gives an indication of the role and importance of online technology and online mapping as information sources in the decision-making processes in the broader tourism market. The outcome of this research has the potential to assist urban planners, event managers, cycling associations and clubs, regional tourism bodies and researchers to better understand their constituents and markets and how to service them better using modern technology.
This research is a first step in exploring the use of online technology by cyclists as tourists. This is a rapidly evolving world with the uptake of this technology being fanned by lower costs of entry, more effective tools and a rapid expansion of mobile communications. The results reported here are from data captured in 2009-10 and if the surveys were repeated now at the time of writing (August 2013) some significant changes would be evident. This field of research is deserving of more attention to understand better the use of this technology, and the related access and information requirements of users.

Submission: Wheels on Fire

Dennis Puniard submitted his PhD thesis for examination on Thursday.

The title of his thesis is:

The Role of the Internet and Online Technologies in Destination Choice for Australian Cycle Tourists.

This is the third PhD to be submitted for examination since the establishment of the National Institute of Sport Studies at the University of Canberra.

It is the first thesis to emerge from a cross faculty collaboration. Dennis is registered for study with the Faculty of Business, Government and Law. I have been his primary supervisor from NISS in the Faculty of Health.

Some of Dennis’s findings about cycle tourists:

  • They are very active in their use of online technology to explore their options for cycling away from their home base.
  •  They seek general information about accommodation and natural attractions at a location, albeit with some cycling specific aspects in view, such as cycle friendly accommodation and cycle friendly routes to attractions.
  • Transportation options to reach a destination were identified as important, but with options that allow them to take their own bicycles with them.
  • Information about  cycling related facilities is important to this group, as is information about cycling events, specifically from a participant’s viewpoint.
  • Information about organised cycling tours was seen as important to many in this group.
  • Bicycle hire (especially overseas) and access to drinking water were identified as important information items and the weather forecasts are more important to cyclists than to many other tourists who have options to avoid bad weather.
  • Age is not a barrier to the use of technology, and in many respects those that are not time poor (older/retired) are just as active online as their younger counterparts.

Overall, Dennis points out that:

The standout feature of this research in regards to cycle tourism is that road safety for cyclists came through as the most significant aspect of cycling away from the home region. Information related to safe routes for cycling was paramount in the needs of this group, and this has significant implications for cycling specific maps both hard copy and online.

Immediately after handing in his thesis for examination, Dennis packed his bags to present a a paper on his work at the Velo City Conference in Vancouver.

Cycle Tourism Conference and Rail Trail Symposium

The University of Canberra is hosting a Cycle Tourism Conference and Rail Trail Symposium on 2 and 3 February 2012.

Both events are being organised by Dennis Puniard.

The Tourism Conference takes place over two days and the Rail Trail Symposium on 3 February.

At the Tourism Conference there will be:

Four Keynote Addresses

Matt Lamont (Southern Cross University), The overlooked cycle tourism segment: Active spectators.

Chris Bull (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK) A Systematic Review of Evidence for the Local Impacts of Tourism and Leisure Cycling.

Craig Groke (Manager, Economic Development , Regional Development Australia, Barossa SA) The Chicken or the Egg? Which one is responsible for the success of Cycle Tourism in South Australia?

Sally Rodgers (Cycle Tourism Officer,  Murray to Mountains), The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail ; The Benchmark for Australian Cycle Tourism – The story thus far and future plans.

Fourteen papers:

Peter Thompson (Project Manager, Roads ACT), Build it and they will come – Cycling in the Australian Capital Territory.

Marjan Moris (Tourism Policy Support Centre,Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium), Cycling as a tool for regional (tourism) development.

Jun Shao (Beijing Forestry University), Connecting Through Social Media: The Case Of Chinese Cycle Tourists.

Dennis Puniard (University of Canberra), The impact of new technologies on cycle tourism; How cyclists use websites, blogs and social networking tools.

Ray Freeman (School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Royal Roads University, Canada), Mountain Bike Tourism and Community Development in British Columbia: Critical Success Factors for the Future.

Stephen Schwer (Tourism Development Officer, Southern Flinders Regional Tourism Authority), Falling in Love Again: Helping government to fall in love again with cycle tourism.

Darren Stewart (Makin Trax) and Rod Florence (Territory Venues and Events), Stromlo Forest Park – Cycling Mecca risen from the ashes.

Peter Thompson (Project Manager, Roads ACT), Canberra’s Best Kept Secret – The Off Road Path Network.

Bruce Ashley (Director, The Environment Works), Cycling touring information and guide books: how they can contribute an integrated cycle tourism strategy.

Peter Neilson (Chief Executive Officer, Oncology Childrens’ Foundation), Charities and Cycling Events: how they attract a special type of tourist.

Blake Rowsell (University of Northern British Columbia, Canada), Mountain bike tourism development under the Midnight Sun: Capitalizing on site characteristics to maximize potential in the Yukon Territory, Canada.

Pam Faulks (THINK CANBERRA Director,  Canberra Convention Bureau), The Tour de Timor experience 2009-2011.

Daniel Carruthers (Zhejiang University, China), Sportive Cycling Events in China: Local Governments Promote their Unique Regions.

Louise Rose (Department of Resources Energy and Tourism), Tourism and Strategy – The  View from the Top.

Two panel sessions: Cycle Tourism Experiences; and Cycle Tourism Research Issues and Funding.

The Rail Trail Symposium program includes:

A Keynote Address by Sally Rodgers (Cycle Tourism Officer, Murray to Mountains)

The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail ; The Benchmark for Australian Cycle Tourism – The story thus far and future plans.

Ten Papers:

Steven Kaye (Vice President, Rail Trails Australia), The State of The Nation:  the best of the bunch and where we can get better

Michael Oxer (Chairperson, East Gippsland Rail Trail Committee of Management), Count your chickens as they hatch, OR Is there anyone out there?

Arianne Reis (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Southern Cross University), A conceptual model for rail trail development as a significant tourism product and Combining tourism products to increase tourism demand for rail trail tourism

Darren McClelland (Director, Enjoy Inspire Consulting Pty Ltd), In anticipation of a new adventure: what do cyclists expect?

Michael Maher (Director, Transplan Pty Ltd), Overcoming Adjoining Landowner Opposition to Rail Trails

Dennis Puniard (University of Canberra), Rail Trails in Southern NSW; Prospects and Possibilities

Petrina Quinn (Riverina Highlands Rail Trails Group), Riverina Highland Rail Trails – A work in progress

Denise Cox (Fraser Coast Regional Council, Queensland), Mary to Bay Rail Trail

Peter Lee (Newcastle Cycleways Movement), The Fernleigh Track

A Panel Discussion on the topic of Rail Trails 2020: A vision for the future of Rail Trails in Australia.