The Welsh Assembly Government’s third Walking and Cycling Conference found that companies saw business improve where cycling and walking levels were high.
Businesses like hotels and cafes were found to thrive where high quality cycling facilities were in place.
The mountain bike trails at Afan Forest Park were cited as a prime example of cycling stimulating economic growth. Last week Afan Lodge – a hotel that targets cyclists using the trails – won the ‘Best New Busines’ award at the National Tourism Awards.
“The benefits of walking and cycling are not just restricted to health and wellbeing," explained Environment Minister Jane Davidson. “New and improved walking and cycling routes often act as a catalyst for new businesses and facilitate the growth of existing ones.
“We have seen numerous examples of bike hire enterprises, cafes, hotels and B&Bs flourishing as a result of improvements to walking and cycling provision. This in turn results in increased job opportunities within the local community and a more vibrant local economy.”
The Walking and Cycling Conference took place at Port Talbot, a location selected because of the council’s efforts to develop high quality walking and cycling facilities in the area – and in encouraging the local community to use them.
European funding has been secured to develop routes for walkers and cyclists, hoped to encourage visitors to Wales and improve the area for locals.
Pedal Power in Cardiff uses the Taff Trail as a safe environment for people with disabilities to enjoy cycling, providing opportunities in the area that otherwise would not have been available.
Davidson added: "We have set ourselves some ambitious targets in the our Walking and Cycling Action plan, not least our goal to triple the proportion of adults and children who cycle to work and school.
“Whilst these are challenging targets, in my view they are definitely achievable.
“Our first annual report of the action plan showed that a good deal of progress has already been made. Our priority now is to build on that progress so that walking and cycling in Wales becomes a natural choice for both travel and recreation.”
Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Ali Thomas added: "The Council is pleased that this important conference is being held here in Neath Port Talbot.
"We believe walking and cycling is key to improving the health and well being of our citizens and helps improve our environment.
"Improving our network of routes will also help attract visitors to enjoy our great countryside. We launched our own walking and cycling strategy earlier this year, which sets out our commitment to developing these activities throughout the county borough.
“We must now increase awareness of all the benefits to be gained and promote how cycling and walking can easily be a part of everyday life."