In a small Mediterranean country, such as Croatia, tourism plays an essential role and it is one of the most significant economic pillars, in particular, of its coastal and peninsular region. Tourism itself consists of many different products; one of the most rapidly growing and promising activities is cycle or cycling tourism.
According to Mintel’s report Cycling in UK (2018), general leisure/recreation ride use is by far the most popular purpose of cycling, with some 52%, followed by commuting to a place of work or study, with circa 27%, then other regular activities, such as shopping/going out and concluding with cycling holidays/overnight touring. Worthington (2018) outlines that 63% of people who cycle state physical health and fitness concerns as one of the three essential benefits, while 42% cite relaxation/stress relief. It is affirmed that cycling could be a key part of the national debate around mental health, as an effective day-to-day tool to tackle concerns about obesity, as well as the mean to reduce the risk of certain types of illnesses, amid rising levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Moreover, there is a clear recognition that cycling, in addition to health benefits, provides environmental (a greener way to travel – which is linked with sustainability), economic (saving money on travel), and socio-cultural benefits – associated with physical health, fitness and relaxation stress relief (Mintel, 2018; Sustrans, no date). Thus, all of these statements and facts point out to the reason why cycling is so popular in today’s globalized world.
Furthermore, there are many benefits of the cycling tourism, which can be divided into these sections: health, environmental, social, economic, sports, transport, and also personal benefits (Rydoze, 2018). In terms of its elements, cycling tourism can be considered a shape/feature of sustainable tourism, because it contributes to the mitigation of air pollution and heavy traffic congestion. From healthy perspective point of view, cycling contributes to great extent to better community health and related savings, less congestion, brings better environmental health, fitness and stress relief and to happier people as well (Sustrans Join the Movement, 2018). Cycling tourism, as a soft type of the adventure tourism, is without any doubt noteworthy on the rise across the globe, with an increasing number of the outdoor adventure tourists embarking on all types of biking tours. According to UNWTO (2014) global report on Adventure Tourism, cycling contributes in over EUR 45 billion per annum to the European continent, with over 23 million-over-night trips, resulting from 2.5 billion a tourism value, in various types of cycling trips.
According to Total Croatia Cycling (2016; 2017) in terms of the cycling tourism development in the Central Dalmatia County, there is currently 2350 kilometres, both cycling roads and pathways, with great deal of the Local Cycling Federation. The CEO of Regional Tourist Board determines that the main aim in the near future, followed by the guideline plan, is to reach 150 pathways, with length of 3000 km, possible income of €5 million, which would lead the region to the same level as Istria, the most successful cycling destination in Croatia.
Central Dalmatia, the biggest, by surface area, County in Croatia, is a cornerstone of the historical region of Dalmatia. It is a site to many ancient, middle- Ages, gothic, renaissance, modern/contemporary events, fairs, competitions, races and cultural manifestations in the whole country. The region extends over 14 thousand square kilometres located on the very south part of the country and falls off about 8% of the Croatian territory. It has population of 470,000 (circa 10% of the country), out of which 41% reside in Split, the main region’s administrative centre (Tomljenović and Kunst, 2014). It includes hundreds of Croatian islands, as well as the mountains Kozjak, Mosor, Omiška Dinara, Biokovo and Vidova Gora on the Island of Brač.
Tourism in the Central Dalmatia County has been one of the top main economic pillars in the promotion policy and its development. Most of the evidence indicates that besides the Istria and Kvarner Counties, Central Dalmatia is the most visited and famous summer holiday destination in SE Europe (Lonely Planet, 2017).
According to CNTB (2018) and MINT (2018), because of such bountiful untouched natural attractions, Central Dalmatia offers a wide diversity of outdoor activities, and one of the most promising is cycling, besides hiking, rafting, climbing, sailing and surfing. Regional tourist boards across the whole Dalmatia put a great effort to promote their marked bike routes, and attract cyclists by offering rural trails, which often involve gastronomy trails, with wine tasting in the domestic households. In terms of pre-arranged packages, Central Dalmatia is impeccable choice for combining cycling with the vacation holidays.