National Interscholastic Cycling Association mountain bike events in Alabama: a comparative analysis of visitor counts, travel behaviors, and reported expenditures to calculate potential economic impact
As economic growth across the state of Alabama has improved some portions of the state more than others, economically struggling counties around Alabama may find eco-tourism events have a significant economic benefit with a low-cost investment requirement. Mountain biking events in particular need very little hard infrastructure and local parks and natural landscapes provide key features necessary for mountain biking trails. The purpose of this study was to conduct an economic analysis of National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) mountain biking events in Alabama. The NICA season runs from early February to early May, and the events occur in different areas of the state, historically across 5 differing venues. During the 2018-2019 NICA race seasons, both direct observation and a survey were administered to the participants in NICA race events. The researcher met with the NICA Alabama league director to define the goals of the survey and its potential use to inform communities of the positive economic impact of NICA race events. The survey was constructed and distributed using the University of Alabama Qualtrics software. Simple reporting of results including demographics, and preferences are found within the Qualtrics reporting system. Each respondent was asked to report their zip code of residence. These zip codes were used to create maps using ArcGIS mapping; which allowed for understanding of the distribution of areas of origin for survey respondents. A correlation was found between distance traveled and increase in spending (at 84.68%) and the spending between travel groups was found to be a significant difference. The organization of NICA Alabama is seeking to grow the current race series, find additional race venues within the state, and recruit more riders from areas of the state that are currently under- represented. This study serves to demonstrate the potential positive economic impact any NICA race can have on an area.