The Isle of Wight is a cyclist paradise with more than 500 miles of cycle and bridleways to explore and voted one of the top 10 cycling locations by Lonely Planet. The tourist board is using ViewRanger to support its “Bicycle Island” project, which aims to boost the local economy and make it easier for visitors to plan their adventures and follow the recommended routes.
Tom Ransom, sustainable transport marketing executive at the Isle of Wight Tourist Board talks about this exciting project.
Q. Tell us about Bicycle Island, what does it aim to do?
The idea behind Bicycle Island is to encourage people to stay on the island overnight and also to choose it as a location for short cycling holidays. We have developed the website http://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/bicycle-island as an online resource to support this.
As the tourist board we are leading the Bicycle Island project and there are a number of stakeholders involved such as the local council, travel partners such as the Isle of Wight ferry service and local hotel owners.
Our ultimate aim is to attract more tourists to the island but in a sustainable way. We want people to leave their cars at home, take the train or ferry to the island and then hire a bike when they arrive to explore everything we have to offer. We would like to make our cycling routes household names – a bit like VisitWales have done with the Wales Coast Path.
We also want more people to stay on the island for multi-day breaks and we have recommended overnight accommodation for some of our routes. Not only will this boost income for hotels, restaurants and other attractions, but it also seems to be what people want in cycling… there’s a growing ‘cycle breaks’ trend within the industry that the UK as a whole has not as yet really embraced.
Q. How are you using ViewRanger to promote the cycling routes?
The way people are consuming information is changing so we thought it important to make our cycling routes available in a digital format. I did a search for mapping software and apps and found that ViewRanger was the only one that had all the functionality we needed already built-in so we didn’t have to adapt it for our project.
We have loaded four of our established cycle routes into ViewRanger; the Red Squirrel trail, Taste around the Island, the Chalk Ridge Extreme and the Day rides.
The four routes are aimed at different types of visitor. Red Squirrel has a nature theme and is suitable for families while Taste of the Island is themed around food and drink; both can incorporate overnight stays. The Chalk Ridge Extreme is a more challenging 50 mile route for mountain bikers incorporating some of the best views of the island.
Visitors to the Bicycle Island website can see a map of the route and then
click through to our branded section within my.viewranger.com to download the route to their smartphone or tablet. (Link to IoW page on ViewRanger: http://my.viewranger.com/user/details/917247)
Having a digital option gives the consumer more choice of how they access our cycling route information. Also as ViewRanger is international it is easy for people already using the app to find information about the Isle of Wight.
A benefit of using ViewRanger is that it allows us to flag up places of interest along the route – such as cafés, public toilets or hotels – which is useful for the consumer but great for the local economy as well.
Q Was it difficult for you to publish the routes in ViewRanger?
A bonus for us as a publically-funded organisation is that ViewRanger is free to use so there’s no cost to the consumer or to us. We could not afford to have a developer come and build a similar bespoke system; without ViewRanger we wouldn’t be able to offer the consumer that digital choice.
None of the Isle of Wight trails were available digitally before so this is a completely new initiative for us. I went out and plotted the routes myself and then added pictures and points of interest once I had uploaded the route to my.viewranger.com.
The ViewRanger system is so easy to use that I uploaded all the routes myself and it was very intuitive to use. We plan to upload all our recommended walking routes as well and will do so over the coming months.
Q How are you promoting Bicycle Island?
We have a media campaign running in local and national newspapers to promote the routes to tourists and we may soon start advertising on the Tube. Our main marketing resource is our website so we want to drive traffic to that. We have undertaken consultation with the local cycle tourism industry but most of our adverts and marketing are focused on people who live off the island who may become new holiday makers.
We hope in future to place QR codes on signage boards at waymarks along each route which will link to our website with a click through to ViewRanger.
Q Are you analysing the online traffic to give insight into who is using the routes?
We are monitoring the amount of page views we get but I am not sure if we are counting the click through rate to ViewRanger yet. We can use the page view data to analyse which routes are most popular; at the moment this is still the day rides but I hope to see a shift in this as the summer season progresses.
Q What advice would you give to other tourist boards considering using ViewRanger?
Do not be afraid of picking up the phone and talking to ViewRanger! The perception of technology companies is that they are sometimes faceless and you can only communicate with them by email. When I eventually picked up the phone, the team I dealt with were “real people” – friendly and engaging. I would encourage others in my situation – who need an effective digital mapping solution – to get in touch with them immediately.