Mountain bike tourism in Austria and the Alpine region – towards a sustainable model for multi-stakeholder product development
This paper interrogates the polarized and heated discussions about mountain bike tourism in Austrian forests, with several organizations favoring permitting biking on all forest roads, using claimed tourism development opportunities, while other stakeholders including hikers, hunters and landowners wish to restrict development. An international literature review on the value and impacts of mountain biking shows that both sides have oversimplified complex cases. The paper draws on 12 in-depth interviews with Austrian tourism destination and mountain bike experts to find ways forward. Results suggest that in Austria, bike tourism will increase in the future, supported by new bike technology, including electric bikes and new hand-held route information technology. It notes the complexity of the market for mountain and other forms of cycle tourism, and the pressing need to create not more trails but more sophisticated tourism products, including appealing and well-maintained trails plus attractive leisure infrastructure (bike rental, service and repair facilities, attractive localities, accommodation suited to the mountain bikers’ needs, etc.). Collaborative planning with all stakeholders, better trail construction standards adapted to differing preferences, needs and environmental conditions as well as clear standards for monitoring are prerequisites of an Austrian strategy for sustainable cycle tourism development and management, which can be replicated elsewhere.
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