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By Malcolm Roughead OBE, Chief Executive at VisitScotland
Every so often, opportunities arise within our industry that chart an exciting new journey for Scottish tourism.
We‘re a land known for our scenery, our culture, and people however for our tourism and events industry to grow in a meaningful and sustainable way and support the ambitions outlined in Outlook 2030 and the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) we must consider tapping into our other strengths.
The arrival of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships marks such an occasion.
In just six months the country will play host to the world’s biggest cycling event and with it comes a unique opportunity to show global audiences Scotland’s unmissable cycling experiences.
I believe, Scotland has the potential to establish itself as a leading cycling tourism destination, be that for a cycling holiday or cycling as part of a holiday, and this never been seen before event will give us the momentum to do that.
The 2023 Cycling World Championships are already stimulating interest and investment in our cycling tourism infrastructure, which will help shape our visitor offering in the coming years. They will act as a catalyst for change and will leave a legacy that will not just benefit our industry but also help make our responsible tourism ambitions a reality. At the same time, improving the health and wellbeing of people right across the country.
Scotland is made for cycling. The mere fact we’re hosting this thrilling multi-faceted event demonstrates that some audiences already recognise our cycling calibre.
This opportunity presented by the UCI World Cycling Championships will spread that message more widely; capitalise on the growing global interest in cycling and ensure that when people think of cycling, they also think of Scotland.
We already have so much to offer including 1,600 miles of national cycling network, world-class track and BMX facilities and over 25 (and growing) mountain bike centres. Not to mention exhilarating mountain and gravel biking experiences.
Locations such as Glentress and Fort William have become stellar examples of what Scotland can offer when it comes to cycling, particularly mountain biking. Our recent Scotland. Made for Cycling. research paper states that the overall value of Scotland’s mountain biking sector was £105 million in 2015 and is predicted to rise to £158 million by 2025.
You need only look at the series of investments being made on new cycling initiatives right across the country to understand that this is more than just a passing fad.
The innovative South of Scotland is for example, a region that has already put the wheels firmly into motion when it comes to developing cycling tourism. Its exciting strategy includes a vision that the South of Scotland will be recognised as Scotland’s leading cycling destination and a world-class cycling destination of excellence.
Projects and investment include the South of Scotland coast-to-coast route, which opens this summer and runs for 250 miles from Portpatrick / Stranraer to Eyemouth; significant investment in enhancing facilities at the 7stanes trail centres over the next two-three years; and major investment in a 10 -year project to create a Scottish mountain bike innovation centre and bike park at Innerleithen..
This level of investment will transcend cycling, it will undoubtedly benefit the people and places around it, and in turn the wider visitor economy.
And that’s only one region, every area in Scotland can benefit in some way from embracing cycling tourism on some level. The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships provides an impetus to consider our offering and equip those in tourism with the knowledge and understanding of who this audience is and how we can meet their needs.
That’s why this week we’ve launched our new industry guide designed to help businesses make those preparations and benefit from the opportunities gifted as part of this exciting event. It includes the latest market insights, cases studies and practical advice on cycling tourism and this growing market. We want to help you and your business make the most of the opportunities and the interest generated from the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships.
Having 13 world championships taking place in one country, in one year, is another first for Scotland – a proud moment indeed! We must grab this unmissable opportunity with both handlebars!