Cycle tourism for rural economies: Andy Beanland’s story
Published: 10 Sep 2018
Andy Beanland travelled to Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands in 2013 to investigate the potential of cycle tourism to deliver sustainable economic benefits to rural economies. His findings led to a widely-circulated guide on cycle tourism for local businesses and to an acceleration of his career in the sustainability sector.
At the time of his Churchill Fellowship, Andy was working as a Sustainable Tourism Development Officer for Nurture Lakeland, a charity based in the Lake District promoting sustainable tourism choices (now known as the Lake District Foundation). He had realised that there were significant opportunities to develop the cycle tourism offer in the Lake District, and more widely in the UK, but there was very little evidence to support the case for this.
One of the reasons for this is that the cycle tourism market was far less mature in the UK than in many countries in continental Europe. In 2013, it was estimated that 1-2% of people cycled as part of their holiday in the UK, compared to 25% in Denmark and 52% in the Netherlands. In continental Europe, this market was estimated to be worth 54 billion euros.
Andy wanted to use his Fellowship to learn lessons for the UK on how cycle tourism could support sustainable rural development, whilst reducing tourism’s environmental impact - which had increased substantially in the previous decade in places like the Lake District due to the number of people visiting the region by car.
Below: Andy on his Fellowship travels
Andy travelled by bicycle on a 3,000-mile journey, to learn from key stakeholders involved with cycle tourism development. Travelling on his own by bicycle pushed Andy out of his comfort zone and led to interesting experiences he might not have otherwise had. His meetings with tourism stakeholders in the countries he visited opened his eyes to new opportunities and wider issues around sustainable development that he had not considered previously.
A highlight of the trip was cycling on the KnoopPunten in the Netherlands. This is an easy-to-follow network that enables cyclists to travel to interesting sights using quiet lanes instead of main roads. He was also impressed with the connective infrastructure in Switzerland, where the whole cycle tourism offer is aligned with public transport.
Below: the Knooppunten
Drawing on findings from his Fellowship travels, Andy facilitated cycle tourism workshops at the Go Lakes Travel Conference, and worked with Cumbria Tourism to produce a guide to cycle tourism for local businesses. This guide was circulated widely to 1,200 individual tourism businesses in Cumbria and fed into the travel programme of Cumbria’s tourist board.
Though Andy’s job at Nurture Lakeland came to an end not long after his Fellowship, his travels proved the inspiration for his future career direction in sustainable development, beyond tourism and cycling. His current position is at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, in Switzerland, where he works with multinational companies across a broad range of topics, including sustainable agricultural practices, carbon emissions and changing the way the current financial system values companies to take into account their environmental and social impact.
The Fellowship also caused Andy to reflect on his own lifestyle, and he reports that he is more conscious of his own carbon footprint than ever, choosing to travel by bike wherever possible.