Mountain bike tourism economic impacts: A critical analysis of academic and practitioner studies

How to cite this study

Buning, R.J. and Lamont, M. 2021. Mountain bike tourism economic impacts: A critical analysis of academic and practitioner studies. Tourism Economics 27(3): 500-509.


The authors reviewed 33 academic and practitioner studies on mountain bike tourism and found inconsistencies in the methodology for measuring economic impacts. They critique the existing literature and make recommendations to improve variable instruments and analysis. The authors claim more coherent and consistent variables analyses will better support community advocates in their push for the investments of public funds into mountain bike tourism.


This study is relevant to researchers interested in developing economic impact studies. The study highlights common limitations in research regarding mountain bike tourism estimates, while also providing recommendations to increase the applicability of the results.


This study is a review of 33 mountain bike tourism studies. The studies were primarily from the United States and Canada but also included the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Trail Type

This review focuses on recreational mountain biking trails.


The purpose of this study is to highlight limitations in the current mountain bike tourism literature and offer recommendations to make data collection instruments more consistent across the broader tourism economics literature. The authors received no funding support for the research or publication of this article.


  • The most prevalent variables used in mountain bike tourism studies were total expenditure during a trip, respondent’s age, expenditure on lodging, and gender. 
  • There is inconsistency in how economic impact is measured: some studies measured visitor expenditure over multiple categories such as lodging, food, rental vehicles, and shopping, while others only measured expenditures on lodging and non-lodging per day, or a combination of total daily expenditure per person, or aggregate expenditure per trip. The authors note this is problematic when attempting to compare results throughout the literature.
  • There is also inconsistency in how categorical variables such as respondents’ demographic and mountain bike participation characteristics are measured. This makes a meta-analysis of all the studies unfeasible. Mountain biking skill level, for example, was measured as a binary variable of novice or advanced in one study while in another it was measured on a four-point scale of beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert. 
  • To develop the most accurate estimates of visitor expenditures, researchers must ask respondents about their main trip purpose and travel distance to the destination.
  • The expenditures of local residents and tourists should be differentiated to exclude expenditure by local residents, since their money is already circulated in the local economy. 
  • Travel party size must be measured in visitor expenditure estimates to reduce the measurement error of individual respondents paying for others or vice versa. 
  • Inaccurate economic impact analyses are partly caused by a lack of a consistent technical definition of a mountain bike tourist. Authors suggest additional variables such as respondents’ main trip purpose and travel distance from home region to the destination need to be added to increase the validity of visitor expenditure estimates.


To assess the current mountain bike tourism literature, authors used the “preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses” (PRISMA) process, screening English academic and practitioner literature. They used keywords such as “mountain biking” and  “economic impact” in several online databases, finding 89 relevant studies. They used additional criteria to filter their results, excluding articles that addressed cycling generally, did not report visitor spending, did not fit the definition of mountain bike tourism, did not report empirical research findings or were duplicates of previous studies. This process reduced their review to 33 studies. The earliest study included was published in 1997 and the latest in 2018. The authors then used these studies to evaluate the range of variables used in assessing the economic impact of mountain bike tourism.

Added to library on November 7, 2023