Iowa Bike Tourism Needs to Appeal to Millennials to Grow

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PERRY, Iowa — The largest demographic in America is millennials, and Iowa is stepping up its appeal to millennials to increase tourism across the state.

Shawna Lode, manager of the Iowa Division of Tourism, spoke to the Iowa Bicycle Tourism Conference at Hotel Patee in Perry. She said millennials are the first digital-only generation. They must be connected to the internet and are seeking authentic attractions and natural beauty.

“They need to be able to connect they’re digital native so they need to be able to connect to the internet to connect to social media,” said Lode. “They really want to have an authentic experience.”

The conference was to help Iowa towns learn more about how to connect with a growing bicycle tourism interest.

Presenters encouraged attractions to have a social media presence, but content should be 80 percent general information and 20 percent about what the attraction has to offer.

Hotel Patee owner Jay Hartz said he found it hard to believe that the hotel has a large customer base that rides bikes to town. Hartz had been in the hotel business for many years and had never heard of such a thing.

“The comments we hear from our guests who come here to cycle is that these are the best trails they’ve been on,” said Hartz. “We have a lot of things to be happy about, and we’re blessed to have the great trails in Central Iowa.”

The Raccoon River Valley Trail has been open for over ten years. Former Trail Association Board Member Chuck Offenburger, of Greene County said that over $330,000 have been spent to promote the trail.

“We have counters on the trail, which are electronic beam counters, and they have confirmed now that we have over 300,000 people a year on the Raccoon River Valley Trail. The trail was built on a former railroad bed,” said Offenburger. “We have more people coming to town today on the recreational trails than ever came in on the railroads.”

The website Bike Iowa.com was founded in 2001 by Scott Sumpter, of Ankeny. He features events from all over Iowa on the website.

“Staycations are big now, we’ve got people coming from all over Iowa and surrounding states to go to some of the weekend rides around here,” said Sumpter We’ve got rides every weekend that are like RAGBRAI, other states don’t have that.”

If you’d like to check out a bike ride near you, check the schedule on Bike Iowa.com

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