Studies have been proving for years that bicyclists are good for business. Cycling customers are more likely to linger, make spur-of-the-moment decisions and purchases, and overall spend more money at bars, restaurants, cafés, and convenience stores in comparison with their car-driving counterparts. However, it is only now that cities and states are recognizing pedal power’s economic potential in tourism.
A term is coming into play a lot more these days: “Wallets on Wheels.” Similar to the business model of bicyclists spending more money, tourism officials are finding that cycling tourists stay longer in a state and spend more per day than other tourists. Tourists on bikes spend more money, to put it simply.
For instance, one state that has tried to profit from this idea is Oregon. Oregon was also the first state to create a Bike Friendly Business Program that focuses on helping businesses market to bicycling tourists. The state has since found that cycling tourism’s contribution to its economy amounts to $400 million USD per year – about $1.1 million per day.
Norma Polovitz Nickerson, director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana, conducted a study in late 2013 that found touring cyclists in Montana who were approximately middle aged, spent an average $75 per day and stayed eight nights or more.
Following the release of the study, Montana constructed more bike-in camping spots at state parks and began to work on ways to make the highway rumble strips more bike-friendly.
It goes without saying – all cities, states, and countries are interested in boosting their local economy. As it were, cycle tourists tend to be middle to later aged, affluent, and especially valuable to a state’s economic growth. These tourists stay in small towns, support locally-owned hotels, motels, or bed-and-breakfasts. They go to local cafés and craft breweries, generally preferring local businesses to larger chains. Moreover, bicycling has little impact on the regional landscape. So with it’s added economic bonus, it’s a win-win to support bicycle tourism.
While most states spend, on average, less than 2% of state budgets of federal funds on bike and pedestrian infrastructure, the numbers are increasing. More and more states are recognizing the benefits of the bicycle in helping create a healthier place, but also in attracting economic growth and tourism.
Some other states beside Oregon who are pursuing similar strategies in hopes of appealing to touring cyclists are Colorado (which has committed to spending $100 million over four years to create “the best state for bicycling”), Washington (ranked the most bike-friendly state for eight consecutive years), and Florida (which approved $25 million annually to connect bike paths into a state network).
Massachusetts has likewise set a goal of tripling its number of biking, walking, and mass transit trips between 2010 and 2030 by studying protected bike paths.
We know bicycling is the perfect machine, for your health, for your happiness, for the city. As is turns out, it’s the perfect machine for rural economies as well.