Lamont, MJ 2009, 'Independent bicycle tourism in Australia: a whole tourism systems analysis', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
Copyright MJ Lamont 2009
Evidence exists to suggest increasing political interest in cycling-related tourism, particularly as a contributor to economic and social development in rural communities. The former Australian Government’s long-term strategy document for tourism, the Tourism White Paper, has also identified cycling-related tourism as a potential contributor to strengthening competitive advantage for Australia with respect to tourism. However, little theory-driven research exists hitherto to guide decision-making regarding prudent provision of infrastructure and services to facilitate the development of cycling-related tourism, while little research exists that aids in our understanding of the travel behaviours and characteristics of bicycle tourists. The present study examined independent bicycle tourists in Australia using a generic model of whole tourism systems as a framework for analysis. The study employed a mixture of quantitative and qualitative techniques to explore the needs, preferences and behaviours of independent bicycle tourists. In addition, several conditions previously identified in applied literature as possible impediments to the development of independent bicycle tourism in Australia were examined. The results indicated that independent bicycle tourists’ behaviours and thought processes regarding destination selection reflected those put forward in the broader literature addressing special interest tourism, in that the activity to be pursued is more prevalent in driving decision-making than the actual destination(s) to be visited. This was illustrated by the importance attached by the respondents to aspects that directly relate to a destination area’s capacity to support cycling, particularly the presence and quality of cycling infrastructure (specifically roads, paths, trails and signage), endowed resources (appealing natural scenery), supporting industries, and accessibility. Three conditions were confirmed as impediments to the development of independent bicycle tourism in Australia. These impediments included perceptions of cycling on Australian roads as a dangerous practice; perceptions that infrastructure to support independent bicycle touring in Australia is generally inadequate; and perceived difficulties associated with the carriage of bicycles on air, coach and rail services in Australia. This research also identified several limitations regarding the capacity of Leiper’s model of whole tourism systems to articulate tourist flows associated with independent bicycle tourism. These limitations specifically related to the way the tourist destination regions and transit routes elements are conceptually defined in the generic model. An adapted descriptive, theoretical model of whole tourism systems involving independent bicycle tourism was proposed. The adapted model incorporated a geographic ‘hierarchy of destinations’ sub-system and also acknowledged two distinct forms of transit routes: those traversed between the traveller-generating region and the destination area; and those traversed within the destination area by bicycle.