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Cycling tourism needs to widen its appeal say top cycling experts

05.10.2012
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Cycling tourism is a huge growth sector but it needs to widen its appeal if it wants to get even bigger. Ed Lancaster lets us know what’s happening after returning from the first ever EuroVelo, Greenways and Cycle Tourism conference last week.

There’s no doubt that cycling tourism is big business. Only two weeks ago, a new European Parliament study said its worth some 45 billion euros per annum to Europe’s economy. But, if we want to see that figure grow than we’ve got some work to do.

Last week saw 100 tourism experts gather in Nantes, France to discuss ways to improve cycling tourism across Europe. Academics, politicians, policy makers and route coordinators – including some from as far afield as Australia and America – gathered at the joint European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) and European Greenways Association (EGWA) cycling tourism event together with some high level political players such as France’s National Bicycle Coordinator (Dominique LeBrun) and Ilona Lelonek from the European Commission.

From all these different voices, the main message was clear: It’s time for cycling tourism to widen its appeal.

“We have a broader view on cycling tourism. Whilst we are keen to continue to appeal to the traditional market of long-distance tourists with their packed panniers we are also thinking about day trippers, families and female tourists ” says Adam Bodor, who manages the EuroVelo Network.

“We can also expand into niche markets [i.e. people in wheelchairs]. The possibilities are endless.”

As one of the presenters at the conference mentioned, cycle tourism is often categorised as being part of adventurous travel but in fact most cycle tourism trips are at the ‘softer’ end of the scale – day trips tend to make up the vast majority of cycling tourism trips in Europe (2.2 billion trips per year).

So how should we broaden cycling tourism’s appeal? According to experts at the conference, there is a lot that can be done. This includes:

  • Providing accurate and reliable information about the opportunities available,
  • Ensuring that there are a variety of accommodation types on offer,
  • Establishing public transport connections to make it possible to skip difficult sections of routes and
  • Working with social media outlets so that potential users can interact and be encouraged by those that have already given it a go.

Another thing we need to do is work more closely with the tourism industry as they will be able to ensure that cycle routes are incorporated into general tourism material and help us broaden our appeal to wider markets.

In any case, this push to boost cycling tourism can also be seen outside of Europe.

“At the conference, I got some excellent tips on economic impact research and route development, while sharing our experience in branding bike travel. Altogether, I came away inspired and with a good feeling that, in our work here in the U.S., we’re utilizing many of the same concepts and tools as Europe, albeit (right now) with significantly fewer resources,” explained Jim Sayer, from the American Adventure Cyclists’ Association. Jim showed an excellent online video that had been prepared to attract cycle tourists to the state of Oregon in the US which I’ve pasted below.

It was great to see the conference hosted in Nantes.  This city has a clear commitment to improve and develop cycling. I can’t wait to see how much progress they’ve made in a year’s time.

A version of this article was published previously on ECF.com