Cycling tourism in Europe facing technology

In EU Member States, cycling-tourism is worth 44 billion euros, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) report called “The EU Cycling Economy”, financed by the European Commission. The report was published in December and it points out the numbers of the European cycling tourism market, a sector which reaches 2,3 billion trips every year. According to a research from CBI, the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing Countries, which also develops market information on export sectors in Europe, European cycling tourists are adults aged between 40 and 60 years old, who have a upper-middle income and who travel in couple or in a small group of people. According to ECF, a cycling tourist in Europe spends an average of 30 euros each day in local products, bringing benefits to the rural economy. The report underlines that Denmark surpassed the Netherlands, also known as the “bicycle land”, in terms of use of the bicycle as a mean of transport, condition of the cycle paths and of the policies dedicated to this sector. In the Netherlands there are cycle-stations, real parking lots for bicycles, usually combined with rail, tram and underground stations. In fact, intermodality is an important characteristic of cycling mobility, which is integrated with other means of transport, allowing tourists to move easily once at destination.

At a continental level, ECF supports a network called Eurovelo, which coordinates the development of 15 cycling-tourism itineraries, even if it plans to complete the network within 2020.

In Germany, the government renewed the plan called “Nationalen Radverkehrsplan” for the 2013-2020 period, which aims to promote the mobility by bicycle, with a section dedicated to the development of cycling tourism.

According to Enit, the National Agency for Tourism, in Italy the economic return deriving from cycling tourism is about 3,2 billion euros each year. The National Strategic Plan for Tourism, which has just been approved, includes the national cycle paths in the strategic projects for mobility with tourism purposes.

In Spain, the Mancomunidad Occidental de la Costa del Sol is planning to implement the project called “Bicyle Sleep”, which aims to promote Costa del Sol as an active tourism destination, and to deseasonalise the tourism demand.

Last December, the Chinese government announced an investment plan in the tourism sector, which will be worth about 272.000 million euros, to be realised within 2020. The plan is expected to bring a +10% to Chinese economy each year. Infrastructures and new services, in addition to attracting tourism flows, are expected to help the birth of a new enterpreneurship. A special attention is dedicated to “health-promoting”, which includes new itineraries for cycling tourism.

The digital component is fundamental for cycling tourism. Many apps and web portals are being developed to offer information and services to tourists. Strava, MotionX and TrackMyTour are just some of the mobile apps which have been created. Moreover, social marketplace platforms are being created, such as BikeNBike, a network which gathers all the bicycle-lovers along with tour operators and associations which operate in this sector. In China thanks to the support of investment funds, bike sharing companies such as Ofo are developing mobile apps for using their bicycles. Mobike has recently raised a 200 million euros Series D funding round, to which also took part the giant Ctrip, which firmly believes in bike rental. Youbai, the Shanghai based startup, raised more than 20 million euros of investments.

At Twissen we observed how the cycling tourism supply at destination is more and more crowded and characterised by a fierce competition, even if itineraries often link destinations in one or more countries. During the trip, a cycling tourist looks for interaction with the locals, with the nature, and is attracted by the attractions of a destination. In fact, the experiential component is what makes the difference, even through the use of technology, which has become essential both to complement infrastructures and to complete the tourists’ equipment.

Author: Francesco Redi
President and founder at Twissen. Manager in Local Development, Tourism Policies,  EU Funds. He cooperates with several European universities, public bodies, development agencies, DMOs and enterprises.

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