The city’s tourism dollars took a big hit with COVID-19 causing the cancellation of two Ironman events this year, but one local business owner is working to increase local outdoor activities that may appeal to visitors.
Jim Johnson, founder and president of Chattanooga-based business BikeTours.com — which helps people book bike tours internationally in Europe — said his business has slowed because of COVID-19.
“Some reports say that tourism is the hardest-hit industry and that it may take years for international tourism to reach 2019 levels. However, most reports also predict huge rebounds in domestic and especially regional tourism.” — Jim Johnson, founder and president of BikeTours.com
So, Johnson is in the midst of developing a regional bicycle tour operation based in Chattanooga + focused on the Southeast.
Here’s what preliminary plans look like:
- Week-long bike tours, such as from Chattanooga to Atlanta or Chattanooga to Nashville
- Day tours, primarily targeting people in the Chattanooga area who want to know the region better (and maybe who are ready to get outside the house)
- Areas could include Sequatchie Valley, the Ocoee/Hiwassee region, Chattanooga Valley, and Chattanooga itself
- Tour themes could include farming, Civil War, and Civil Rights
- Some tours may have local experts, such as historians, to provide information
“We’re hoping there will be a lot of interest in the Chattanooga area for active staycations and nearby getaways.” — Johnson
To get more insight into interests, preferences + experience levels, Johnson has put together this survey, which also includes questions about what will make people feel safest considering COVID-19.
ICYMI — See ya in 2021, Ironman
- Since 2014, the Ironman triathlon has been happening in Chattanooga.
- Each year, thousands of athletes and visitors descend on the Scenic City for the event, in which participants swim, bike + run a total of 140.6 miles.
- The events take hours, with the fastest professional athletes completing the full triathlon in about eight hours. Each leg has a time limit and everyone must finish the entire race within 17 hours.
- The first 70.3 event, which is a shorter version, came to Chattanooga in 2015.
- The loss of the events represents a loss of $22.8 million in tourism dollars.
- The Little Debbie IRONMAN full distance race has an estimated $17 million economic impact and the Sunbelt Bakery IRONMAN 70.3 is $5.7 million.
- Both events are scheduled to come back here in 2021.