Mountain bike destinations often face a similar and tricky dilemma. The organizations that build the trails that attract people from all over to ride there, still painstakingly raise funds and chase grants to build and maintain singletrack. Funding for trails is rarely an easy endeavor, and in most cases, few visitors are directly paying to support those trails, unless the trip involves a bike park.
On the flip side, after that ride in a fresh locale, riders usually B-line to a brewery or pizza joint to drop dough and support the local economy. Local businesses, though important to support, often become the sole beneficiary, while mountain bike organizations still rely on volunteers to fix eroded trails so tourists have an enjoyable experience.
An innovative and collaborative idea has emerged in Finale Ligure, Italy, AKA “Whistler by the sea” in the form of a rewards-points type of card that aims to connect local businesses with outdoor advocacy organizations so both can thrive. The FOR (Finale Outdoor Region) You Card, informally launched around the Enduro World Series Finale in September, is an NFC-chipped card that visitors can purchase either ahead of their visit to Finale Ligure, or when they arrive in the city.
Finale Ligure has an ancient history and the trails have some serious significance. Mountain bikers have been visiting Finale regularly since the early 2000s, says Guala. The moderate climate and swath of trails and elevation drop made the town easily promotable for outdoor tourism. The Super Enduro was born in 2008 and the region really caught mountain bikers’ attention after the Enduro World Series visited in 2013 and became a regular stop.
The FOR You card is based around a consortium of stakeholders in the Finale region, including trail builders and advocates, local businesses, bike shops, hotels, restaurants, and hiking, climbing, and other outdoor advocacy organizations.
When a visitor purchases the FOR You card for €10, they are automatically loaded with 500 points, given a trail map, access to digital maps of Finale’s trails, an extensive list of businesses that participate, and access to promotions; i.e. a restaurant running a special on Wednesdays where eaters get a free beer with the purchase of a pizza. Earned points go toward discounts at businesses.
A portion of each purchase at a participating business goes back to the consortium and they will divvy the funds up amongst trail builders and other associations.
“It’s not a huge amount of course,” said Enrico Guala, the marketing director for Finale Outdoor. “You know, it’s between 2 and 5% depending on the type of business, but at the end of the day, with 300,000 people [per year] spending time there drinking beers, having pizza, shuttles, guiding, [buying] a rear derailleur, helmet, gloves, a little bit of that business generated is given back to trail building.”
Of course the amount that goes back into the trails is dependent on how many visitors purchase a card and use it at participating businesses. Guala is optimistic though. At the EWS Finale a few months ago, all registrants received a FOR You card. About 700 were given out and folks seemed eager to use it, said Guala. He’s hopeful more trail destinations will take advantage of the idea.
“Honestly from what I saw so far, people are more interested in giving back something than getting something in exchange. The experience of a great trail network is already a great reward for a mountain biker.”