Economic Impact of Bike Tourism

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Last week we discussed “What is Bicycle Tourism?” in an effort to bring attention to this important sector of the tourism market for small towns. As of the date of the publication of this post, I’ll be trying to recover from RAGBRAI. As trudge through my first day back at work, the towns along the RABGRAI route will have a clear understanding of the importance of bike tourism. They’ll be counting up the many dollars left behind by the party on two wheels as it rolled on through their towns.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Webinar

But to explain the impact of bicycle tourism on communities is hard to do without a full study. Better yet, a webinar may have a better impact. Recently, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has done just that. This past June they conducted an hour-long webinar about the economic potential of the Great American Rail Trail.

If you haven’t heard of the Great American Rail Trail, I’ve already campaigned for the trail to towns along the proposed route in a February 2019 post. This nationwide trail from Washington State to Washington D.C. will be a connection of a number of existing rails-to-trails routes into one 3,700-mile route. Since the trail was announced in 2019, over $54 million has been invested along the route to fill gaps.

Three Types of Impacts

In the webinar, they bring in Megan Lawson from Headwaters Economics, who completed the economic impact analysis for the Conservancy. Megan talked of the three types of impacts:

Direct Impact – The direct benefits from spending related to the trail. Hence, the actual spending by a visitor from the trail. Take for instance a restaurant, right off of the trail.

Indirect Impact – This includes the business-to-business purchasing along the supply chain in relation to the trail. For instance, a local restaurant sees an increase in traffic caused by the trail visitors. That restaurant then purchases more goods and services from support industries to handle the influx of new activity.

Induced Impact – This impact happens when employees at that restaurant or the companies that support that restaurant spend their wages within the community. This is sometimes referred to as “rollover impact”.

Headwaters Economics calculated that the Great American Rail Trail will create 2,500 new jobs. It will also spark over $229 million in visitor spending each year. This is outside spending that would likely not be coming into the communities along the route without the existence of the trail. Additionally, they calculated that bike tourism from the trails would create $104 million in labor income, as well as $22.8 million in new tax revenue.

More Information

For more information on the impact of the Great American Rail Trail check out the webpage for the webinar. Available on the website for download is the full report on the economic analysis. Even if your community isn’t along the planned route for the Great American Rail Trail, the information within this report eye-opening as to the potential of bike tourism in your community.