As we finally launch our highly-anticipated IMBA Destinations program, a flurry of inquiries start to flood my inbox and I can't help but wonder, "Why can't we all do more mountain bike travel?" The answer is pretty simple for me personally - most of my extra funds go toward making overseas trips to visit family and friends, who sadly don't ride dirt. I also recently became a mother and unfortunately I have not come across any inventions to safely tote a tiny tot on singletrack. Not that I'm complaining about either of these "obstacles", but since IMBA Destinations went live, I have discovered so many incredible places to ride and awesome MTB tours out there, that I find myself with a whole new type of traveler's itch.
Prior to joining IMBA, my career has always been focused on sustainable/adventure tourism, so you can imagine my excitment in getting IMBA to become more involved in this industry. At this point, our Destinations program is focused on providing a host of web-tools to help our constituents plan their bike-related travel, but eventually we hope to also provide opportunities for folks to travel WITH us, pitching in on our projects while exploring extraordinary terrain on two-wheels both near and far. To that end, I have been styudying up on the ins and outs of Adventure Voluntourism, a rapidly growing segment of the worlds largest industry that enables travelers to give-back to the destination and connect with community members while exploring its natural wonders on foot, bike or boat.
Sounds great, right? Well unfortunately its not that easy to create a voluntourism experience that is win-win for both the traveler and the destination community. At a recent Voluntourism conference, I learned a lot about this issue as well as other useful insights such as successful ways to connect with media and potential clients, creating easy ways for customers to donate to the projects they visited, and key demographics for this niche market. Luckily, it turns out that limiting the volunteer activity to working on our own trail-building projects eliminates many of the potential pitfalls that many voluntours encounter, so I am still very gung-ho to develop an IMBA Trips 4 Trails program.
For IMBA's Destination partners dabbling in this niche, check out this recap of the conference, including presentation powerpoints and a video.