When asked what I do for a living, I usually respond: “I am a management consultant who specialises in strategic and business planning advice to the visitor, leisure and cultural sectors”. Some people instantly understand what I mean with that, but others may think that I am a travel consultant, booking and organising trips to exotic destinations for clients and sneaking in the occasional fam trip. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of my time is spent behind my desk: either on the phone or working on spreadsheets and reports. I do travel quite a bit for site visits, consultations and client meetings, but hardly ever outside of the UK these days.
Although the hours can be long at times, I absolutely love what I do as I get involved in exciting projects which are often related to both my professional and personal interest. I get to work on concept studies, business plans, strategies, governance development plans and funding support for all sorts of interesting and fun destinations, including museums, cultural centres, theatres, parks, zoos and sports venues.
Occasionally, I even get to work on a cycling-related project. For example, I have been lucky to be involved in a study for Cyclopark in Kent and have worked on a business plan for a new cycling hub in a park in East London. If I know clients don’t mind me arriving in lycra (or are even cyclists themselves) and have facilities to get showered and changed, I may even ride to and from client meetings as far as North Wales, time-allowing.
I always keep an eye out for new developments or experiences that can serve as case studies or inspiration for work projects. Much to my surprise, it was my dad who introduced me to the perfect case study of ‘De Fietser’ when I recently spent some time in the Netherlands to catch up with friends and family.
You may wonder why I am blogging about this experience here. Feel free to switch off, but I hoped some of you may be interested in getting to know another side of my life. Jasmijn, the ‘destination development consultant’, as I may describe myself to professional connections, rather than Jasmijn, the ‘long distance cyclist’. If I haven’t lost you yet, I hope you will enjoy reading on. This blog is not just a way to illustrate what sort of projects I get involved in for a living, but also a chance to inform you of a very exciting new cycling experience in the Netherlands. Although I did not actually work on this project, it would be great to see a similar development in the UK some day…
So what is De Fietser? De Fietser recently opened in the Dutch city of Ede as Western Europe’s largest cycling experience centre. It is a place where visitors can see, try and learn everything about cycling. The experience centre, which stretches out over 8,500 square meters offers a showroom with brand pavilions by Batavus, Koga, Sparta, Van Nicholas, Loekie, Ghost, and many other brands that are popular with the Dutch (including e-bikes). In addition, De Fietser features Europe’s longest indoor test track (554m) where you can try out any of nearly 1,000 test bikes (ranging from children’s bikes to titanium race bikes and from mountain bikes to luxury e-bikes) which can subsequently be ordered and delivered through a network of local dealers. There is also a café, a cycling museum, and a little cinema room where you can watch films about the weird bicycle designs and races the Dutch have invented over the years. In due time, the centre will also organise cycling tours from its base.
OK, but how does this relate to my work? One of the areas I specialise in is helping clients to find new uses for old buildings: carrying out options appraisals, feasibility studies and business plans for the development of exciting new ventures that can help to bring new life and financially sustainable new uses to historic buildings that may have become dilapidated after they seized to serve their original purpose and were closed down. Such buildings can however offer exciting potential to developers with vision. It is here that BOEi, the developer of De Fietser, excelled. BOEi did not only make best use of the listed national monument’s outstanding architectural and historic features (dating from 1928), but also made a loose connection with the building’s historic use as a factory for ENKA, which produced man-made fabrics and later specialised in chamois and sponges. The factory closed in 2002 and was partially demolished in 2008, and has since been used (on a meanwhile basis) as a venue for car shows.
In the development of De Fietser, BOEi found a strong partner in the Accell Group as tenant and operator. For Accell Group, which has a portfolio of well-known brands, the former ENKA factory was the perfect location for its cycling experience centre. Ede is centrally located and the industrial building gives the ambiance Accell was looking for. In turn, the experience centre helps to improve Ede’s image as a growing city and as a gateway to the Veluwe, one of the country’s prime destinations for leisure and recreation.
De Fietser formally opened its doors in November 2016 and anticipates some 150.000 visitors per year. It is a great place. I absolutely loved the museum and the bikes in the Van Nicholas area were particularly tempting. My 10-year old half-brothers loved the simulated climb up the Alpe d’Huez on a real race bike. They didn’t seem to mind the KOGA was several sizes too large for them. And my dad really enjoyed the museum (especially the comfy saddle seats in the cinema).
I look forward to following the further development of De Fietser. Who knows, there may be future project in the UK which is suitable for a similar concept… Meanwhile, I am curious to see if a similar experience centre by Shimano (in a former brewery in Valkenburg in the south of the Netherlands) is still opening its doors in time for the Amstel Gold Race in April 2018.