Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly this week emphasised that cycling has great potential for tourism in Sligo.
Research indicates that the average cycling tourist spends an average of five nights attending a sportif event. Nearly 400 official cycling sportifs take place in Ireland each year - along with many more local events - and the number of events is growing each year.
In the UK alone, over two million adults cycle at least once a week and sales of high-quality road bikes have grown 24% on last year. The location of a sportif is a key driver for this type of visitor and research has revealed that 81% of potential sports tourists would identify the Wild Atlantic Way as having a strong (45%) or very strong (36%) appeal for them.
Mr Kelly was speaking at the launch the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Sportif – a series of bi-annual cycling events along the coastal route (from Kinsale in West Cork to Muff in Donegal) which will promote the Wild Atlantic Way as a cycling destination internationally and domestically as well as attract visitors across the full length of the route during off-season months.
An inaugural ride will take place along the route this September and a further two events per year will take place from 2018 to 2020.
“We have our own natural cycling route along the Wild Atlantic Way and I would imagine every cycling enthusiast would love to hop on a bike and enjoy the unique landscapes of counties such as Sligo. Through the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Sportif we are creating an added incentive for them. We are developing the logistics and events along the route that, I believe, will build a strong reputation for the Wild Atlantic Way as an attractive cycling destination. Indeed, if we get this right, the Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Sportif will become a ‘must-do’ item for international and domestic cyclists.”
Mr Kelly also emphasised that developing the cycling initiative made good economic sense in terms of tourism. He pointed out:
“If we can meet our visitor targets, we estimate that the Cycle Sportif could generate over €13m and up to 50,000 bed nights. Importantly, we will also be generating significant visitor activity in off-season months which will help businesses stay open longer. This is a real bonus for areas that are outside the traditional tourist hot spots.”
This September 13-29th, Ride Wild are organising a pilot event and all interested cyclists and clubs are invited to saddle up and be the first to embark on what will soon be Europe’s signature cycling route.
Ride Wild is a cycling tour company, specialising in leisure cycling tours. The company is Ireland’s only Ride with GPS Route Ambassador, a prestigious title awarded to tour companies who demonstrate exceptional knowledge of cycling routes in their area. Speaking today, Ride Wild’s Cycling Director Michael O’Boyle said that the event will be fully supported and that Ride Wild’s priority is to provide a first-class experience to the cyclists. He added:
“As a cyclist myself, I see the Sportif as a fantastic opportunity to experience the Wild Atlantic Way on a fully-supported, multi-day cycling tour. Our focus will always be on the cyclists and making sure that they have a wonderful experience as they cycle with us along the Wild Atlantic Way. Our route stages were designed by cyclists for cyclists to create that wonderful experience which comes from the stunning scenery along the route, the remote wildness of the west coast, and the characters you meet along the way – there’s something about that combination that makes this event very special."