When a trickle of bicycle tourists passing through your city or town turns into a steady flow, how can a local business tap the opportunity? Head to the local convention and visitor's bureau (CVB) or destination marketing organization (DMO). "We're the first place a lot of people go when they are planning a trip. And we make a point of promoting bike-friendly businesses," says Kalene Griffith, President and CEO of Visit Bentonville, which features some of Arkansas' (and the country's) best mountain biking. "We need to know that you're interested." Here are a few pro-tips for getting started.
All CVBs are not the same. Large CVBs tend to be member-based and require fees, in contrast to smaller CVBs. "So smaller CVBs will be more accessible," says Mina Thorgeson, Director of Sales at the Ridgeland (Mississippi) Tourism Commission. And, some CVBs are more bike savvy than others. "You as the business owner may end up needing to educate the CVB about the benefits of attracting bicycle tourists," Griffith says.
Be flexible. Tandem bicycles don't fit in a lot of hotel elevators, so when Ridgeland began hosting an annual tandem rally a few years ago, Thorgeson worked with the rally's hotel of choice to ensure guests could use the service elevator. "The bicyclists were perfectly fine with that, and now everyone looks forward and knows what to expect," Thorgeson says. Similarly, says Griffith, a higher-end restaurant could set itself apart by explicitly welcoming riders in casual bike attire.
Most DMOs or CVBs produce a visitor map. Get on it, especially if includes a legend that highlights bike-friendly lodging and services. Ridgeland's Thorgeson has even helped businesses map best routes for cyclists to get to their goods — critical if your business isn't in a plumb location near a trail, bike path or major tour route.
Little things mean a lot. Thorgeson says that even a few bike-friendly business basics go far. For bed and breakfasts or hotels, that might mean making a tire pump and hose readily available, allowing guests to take their bikes up to their rooms or providing secure bike storage. For a restaurant, are healthy food options available that are easy to package for the road?
Above all, says Griffith, be sure to walk the walk. "If a business asks to be labeled as bike-friendly, they need to follow through."
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