November 10, 2015
I attended the 26th annual National Bicycle Tourism Conference, held November 4–7 in San Diego, California. The conference is an opportunity for industry professionals to come together to share trends, plans, practices, dreams, and the love of cycle tourism. It was attended by more than 200 bicycle event and festival organizers, destination marketing and tourism groups, advocates, retailers, and those new to the industry.
This was my fifth conference; each being better than the one before and 2015 was no exception.
I enjoyed the Thursday keynote address, Fun for Everyone - Growing Cycling in North America, by Chris Speyer of Acell North America and Tim Blumenthal of People for Bikes, the presenting conference sponsor.
The keynote panel, Bicycle Tourism Trends: At Home and Abroad by Peter Eich, bicycle entrepreneur, Maria Elena Price of Experience Plus and moderated by Jim Sayer of Adventure Cycling, was engaging and insightful.
Visions of a dream cycling culture and growing the cycling tourism pie kept me wanting more.
A personal highlight was the presentation on the creation and success of the Great Allegheny Passage trail and the connecting C&O Canal trail between Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC. Trail visionary, Linda McKenna Boxx of the Allegheny Trail Alliance headed up the panel on creating bicycle based tourism destinations. I have travelled this trail ten times, watching it grow over the past ten years of personal travel into the tourism success story it has become. I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Linda later during the conference. She is my personal cycling tourism hero.
There were plenty of opportunities to network, be it on the daily morning rides offered along the beaches, boardwalks, and bays, during the social lunches and dinner cruises, or during the interactive panels. My head was spinning with the handful of potentially new cycling tours that I would like to develop. The theme was FUN and it was available 24/7.
During the conference, I shared my knowledge with new operators and those looking to make bicycle tourism a new career. I worked with existing colleagues to fine tune some of Adventure Cycling's tour offerings and marketing materials. Plus, I worked with new colleagues to bring new ideas to the table, particularly with new possibilities in Ontario, Canada, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
The Events 101 and Bike Tourism 101 provided opportunities to share ideas and learn the basics of planning and outreach. Even the old timers picked up a new idea or two: tricycle races at an event announcement party sounds like a blast.
Our annual "best jersey contest" proved highly competitive yet again this year. Adventure Cycling tour leader Kelly Dubay, seen above, promoted the Route 66 jersey from Adventure Cycling. Her commendable enthusiasm showcased the jersey, but first place went to Tour de Nebraska's Cycling the Sandhills, seen fourth from the right with the winner admiring her own entry.
A bicycle conference would not be complete without a fun and active group activity to end the festivities. This year the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition led a Saturday morning ride along the boardwalk with discussions on touring with food/cycling pairings. Ice cream and beer, combined with yet another beautiful riding day in San Diego, topped the four days of the conference.
As the sun sets on the 2015 National Bicycle Tourism Conference, I reflect fondly on new contacts I've made, new friends, new places to discover by bicycle, the wealth of work I have to do, and my decision to make bicycle travel my passion and occupation. All is right with my world.
I arrived in Missoula to more of the magic of bicycle travel. An Adventure Cycling van arrived from the field ready to be mothballed for the winter and event director Bob Westgate and I spent the afternoon and early evening talking cycling, vans, and tours.
Shortly thereafter, long-distance, world traveler/cyclist, and Warmshowers guest Mirjam Wouters arrived at our home. She and her fully loaded bicycle have been cycling since 2001. Her stories entertained us throughout the evening. All is indeed right with my world.
See you in St. Pete Florida in 2016. Happy Trails!
Post by Arlen Hall. Photos by Shawn Decareaux (sunset and having fun yet photo), Bruce Lederer (ride and beer photos), Tammy Schurr (Adventure Cycling booth and jersey photo).