May 3, 2012
This post is part of a series that spotlights Adventure Cycling's corporate supporters. These companies support our mission and programs and do some cool stuff of their own. We decided to ask them some questions and, as a result, have learned a few interesting things about our supporters that we'd like to share with you. The answers below are direct from the companies. We hope that this gives you the chance to get to know them a little better, too.
BikeToursDirect, a gold-level member, is one of our newer corporate members. Jim Johnson, owner, took time to answer some of our questions and tell us more about his company.
Adventure Cycling: Tell us a little bit about your company.
Jim: BikeToursDirect serves as a central resource for bicycle tours around the world, representing nearly 60 tour companies that offer more than 300 tours in 50 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America. Our extensive selection of tours in popular European cycling destinations like Tuscany, Provence, and the Danube Bike Path, allows cyclists of all levels and interests to find tours that match their interests and preferences. Our roster also includes variety for the more adventurous cycle-tourists, including New Zealand, South Africa, Bhutan, Nepal and Jordan.
Rather than operate our own tours, we represent local overseas bike tour companies, which generally translates to low tour costs (one-week tours start at less than $700) and frequent departures. Many of the tours are self-guided with lodging in 3- and 4-star hotels, breakfasts, luggage transfers, rental bikes, detailed route information, service hotlines and more. Other tours are guided or can add a guide, support vans and dinners. Most guided tours are with a mix of international clients, not just Americans.
From humble beginnings in 2003 with 150 clients traveling to a dozen European countries, BikeToursDirect expects to send well over 2,000 clients on their dream bike tour vacations in 2012.
Cyclists on tour near Florence, Italy
Adventure Cycling: Talk about what services or products you provide for bicycle tourists.
Jim: With so many tours, it can be daunting for clients to sort through hundreds of bicycle tours and find the right one. We recently launched a new website (www.biketoursdirect.com) designed to make it easier for clients to choose, plan and book their cycling vacations. The site helps visitors search for tours based on personal preferences such as destination, type of tour, level of difficulty, price range, date and duration. Additional filtering tools help further refine search results, which link to detailed tour information such as tour descriptions, daily programs, dates, prices, route overviews, sample hotel lists and route maps. We then provide the tools to help them plan their trips. Tour specialists are available to help select and plan tours, and we also handle the entire booking and payment process.
Adventure Cycling: Why do you support Adventure Cycling through corporate membership?
Jim: I've been a member of Adventure Cycling since its "BikeCentennial" days and give Adventure Cycling credit for bringing about my passion for cycle touring. We hope our corporate membership will help Adventure Cycling with its mission "to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle" -- whether on tours, around the block, to work or on recreational rides with friends.
Adventure Cycling: What are your five favorite cycling related things right now?
Adventure Cycling: Where would you like to see cycling in America in 5 years?
Jim: I'd like to see cycling become more mainstream in America -- more like much of Europe, where cycling is not just accepted but also embraced as both a means of transportation and a way of life.
Adventure Cycling: What is your favorite service or program that Adventure Cycling offers?
Jim: That's a tough one, but I think it's wonderfully exciting watching the expansion of the U.S. Bicycle Route System.
Adventure Cycling: If your headquarters staff could relocate to any place in the world, where would they choose?
Jim: Do we have to relocate? We love Chattanooga! If forced to, I'd pick Salzburg, Austria. I consider it my second home and love exploring the regional cycle path network. And, yeah, there's also the food.
Cycling and Wine - a great combo
Adventure Cycling: As your company grows, have you had mainly tailwinds, headwinds or crosswinds? Explain.
Jim: Mainly tailwinds, probably thanks to our novel concept of representing overseas bike tour companies rather than offering our own tours. As word spreads and clients tell their friends, our business grows. We've had consistent growth every year.
Adventure Cycling: What do you like best about the magazine (other than having your logo appear)?
Jim: The travel features, both domestic and foreign. They educate and inspire.
Adventure Cycling: What cycling related benefits do you offer your staff?
Jim: They can take any tour on our site. Any tour and travel time does not count toward vacation.
Adventure Cycling: Is there anything else about your company that you really want to share with our readers?
Jim: Dreams can come true. A lot of people tell me I have a dream job. They're not far off. Through the years, I've been a travel agent, freelance travel writer, public relations manager and web site planner. I love to ride, and I love to travel. BikeToursDirect has allowed me to bring together these backgrounds and interests and make a living at it.
BikeToursDirect started nine years ago with my own passion for bike touring in Europe. I was a freelance travel writer at the time (maintaining my sanity while at a Fortune 100 job) and wanted to do my research from the saddle. Bicycle tours offer a travel experience you don’t get from a bus, rental car or train. I wanted to meet people, smell the fields, feel the terrain. I didn't want to ride self-contained, though, but I also couldn't afford the prices charged by many U.S.-based tour operators. I made direct contact with local overseas companies and found I could tour self-guided but supported at a fraction of the cost -- even with hotels, rental bikes, luggage transfers, maps and route planning included in the package. The best of both worlds! I left corporate America and decided to build a business based on my experiences and contacts -- and to provide an alternative to the expensive, heavily-marketed overseas bicycle tours offered by many fine North American operators at the time.
I fully embrace the words of Ernest Hemingway: "It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."
MEMBERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS is typically posted every other Friday by Amy Corbin, Membership and Marketing Coordinator. Membership Highlights spotlights the various benefits of membership,our accomplishments thanks to member support, and even interviews with some of our most passionate and dedicated members, both individual and organizational.