AMSTERDAM: NEWS FROM THE BIKING AND HIKING FAIR 2015

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We are just back from the annual Biking and Hiking Fair (Fiets- en Wandelbeurs) in Amsterdam. Full of impressions, of course. Also this year, almost 20,000 nature lovers visited the two-day event. Yes, a very special kind of visitors indeed – all of them passionate hikers and/or bikers, most of them dressed in typical outdoor clothing & shoes and eager to learn more about new destinations (photo 1) or to buy some new equipment for their next travel adventure. The choice was enormous!

fwb2Many tourism organizations – but also individual travel agencies – participated with a stand, promoting original hiking and biking tours; through Holland, Germany or France, but also through more exotic places like Tibet, Vietnam or Peru. Moreover, a lot of trade companies were selling different types of bicycles, outdoor products, hiking shoes, camping equipment, etc. Special biking trails were set up in a separate part of the fair and attracted numerous visitors, who wanted to test some of the new bike models.

Those who were really interested in a special topic or country could attend one of the lectures or presentations. Paul was one of the lecturers: he made two presentations about hiking in the “the two most adventurous countries of Europe”, Montenegro (photo 2) and Albania, including the cross-border project “Peaks of the Balkans”. This was a good opportunity for Paul’s editor Boekscout to hand him the second revised edition of his book: the first Dutch travel guide about Montenegro. Now completed with city walks, hiking tours and a lot of extra photos. A great success indeed!

fwb4Holland is a famous biking country and this fair was the place where you could see many types of bicycles: not only mountain, touring and city bikes, but also lying bikes (photo 3), tandems, and in particular a great variety of e-bikes, i.e. electric bikes, which are getting more and more popular. By the way, did you know that there are 18 million bikes in the Netherlands, which is more than one per head of the population? And the sneaky electric bikes accounted for over 19% of sales last year, which means that the market share of e-bikes in total bike sales in Holland has tripled over the past six years! What about the price? Somewhere between 800 and 2,000 €!

fwb4aHikers and backpackers were more interested in camping equipment (photo 4). Tents, sleeping bags, dried food, GPS, solar collectors, etc. could be found in all types and sizes. It was really amazing to see so many different electronic devices that are designed for outdoor activities only!

Many European countries were present with their travel agencies and specialized programs. Unfortunately, not Montenegro, although hiking and biking should be a very important tourism segment. What a pity, as the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism recently published a complete series of brochures with top biking trails! Where will they be distributed, if not at a biking fair? But it was nice to meet two representatives of the newly-founded travel agency Montenegro Eco Adventures from Podgorica, Scott and Alex, who promoted Montenegro in a very enthusiastic way, offering brochures, but also ham, cheese and Montenegrin drinks (photo 5).

fwb5There were also several travel agencies from Macedonia (photo 6) and Albania, which promoted their hiking and biking tours. An example? A biking tour (11 days) called “On the trail of Alexander the Great”, from Skopje to the Ohrid and Prespa Lakes. Price? Around 800 €.

It should be understood, also in Montenegro, that hiking and biking tourists are not “poor”. They are willing to spend a lot of money, if they really get what they want: unspoiled nature, good road signs and interesting trails, and, of course, comfortable B&B accommodation.

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