“Cycling is good for the rural economy. A visiting cyclist spends an average of £25/day on locally provided food and services, compared to car-borne visitor’s £7.30. Car users bring what they’ll need with them, whereas cyclists can’t. Because of the exercise: cyclists feel hungrier when they stop and that they’ve earned the right to pamper themselves.”
This is a direct quote from the Cyclists Touring Club’s “New Vision for Cycling” and based on research that the CTC carried out. This presents a substantial opportunity for a number of businesses which are on cycle routes, whether informal, unsigned but roads and lanes that are often used by cyclists; part of local or national cycle routes; or on the EuroVelo route 12 – the North Sea route – which I wrote about yesterday.
Cyclists on a day’s excursion need “feed stations”, where they can top up water bottles and obtain some more “fuel” (calories) to see them further on their way, as well as use toilet facilities and enjoy a cup of tea, coffee, or sometimes (if they are holidaying rather than on a “sportive” event) a refreshing beer or cider. Long distance cycling guides recommend, for example, that a cyclist should nibble something every 30-45 minutes to avoid glycogen depletion and low blood glucose levels, and then eat something larger at a rest stop. A cyclist can also lose 2-4 pints of fluid via sweating during an hour of cycling in hot and humid weather and Edmund Burke PhD, a US expert on training and nutrition for cyclists, recommends taking a mouthful of drink every 15 minutes. All of this means that cafés and corner shops can benefit by indicating their willingness to serve passing cyclists. This can be done by putting up signs but also by contacting cycle clubs in the area, such as the CTC (Cyclists Touring Club), whose members often joke that the initials stand for “Coffee, Tea and Cakes” because of the common arrangement of their rides – a 90 minute “leg” to elevensies, another one to a lunch stop, and a third to an afternoon tea/ coffee stop.
Cycle holidays can be from a base, which is returned to for accommodation, or as part of a tour going from location to location. The former provides an opportunity for holiday accommodation to attract cyclists by providing secure bike accommodation and indicating that there are good cycle routes in the vicinity; in the latter case, it is possible to attract the touring cyclist, either to a campsite, or to a B&B, or hotel, where it would be a plus-point for a potential cycling visitor to know that there is somewhere that they can secure their bikes.
There are various schemes across Europe to indicate that accommodation is “bike friendly” – the German cycling club ADFC’s “Bett+Bike” (Bed and Bike) to the UK’s Cyclists Welcome scheme, operated by the CTC since it was first formed in 1878. Advertising to the CTC’s members – and all others who use the website – costs a hotel or B&B just £40 a year.
The Cyclists Welcome website also lists bike shops, which can be important for bike parts while en route, and also “attractions”. Many cyclists on holiday will also want to “see the sites” and not just pedal their way onwards every day of their tour.
An EU report made the somewhat obvious observation that “people in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany enjoy a more cycle-friendly culture at home and they are also more likely to cycle for recreation and on holiday” and followed this by saying “the main outbound markets of the European tourism sector are Germany and the UK”. With EuroVelo route 12 running right through Suffolk and Norfolk, there is potential which statistics show is growing year on year for more tourism related business from non-UK residents who are following the North-Sea route.
As an example of what this can mean, there are some useful figures from the Swiss Veloland network showing that German cycle tourists on the Veloland network spend on average €53 per person per day including accommodation, whereas day excursion cyclists spend just under €16. A similar survey of Swiss riders showed day-riders spending €8.44, which increased to €45.43 for cyclists on a short break, and jumped to €71.39 for cyclists away for a longer holiday. Compare this with Dutch car travellers on long domestic holidays spending just €21 per person per day. This compares with the average daily spend of cyclists on the Dutch “LF” cycle routes spending an average of €31 per day. (Bear in mind that these expenditure data are several years old.) Veloland reports 4.6 million single day riders in a year, compared with 120,000 on a short break, and 90,000 on a longer holiday. Riders in these groups totalled 210, 15 and 23 million km ridden respectively, an impressive total of 249 million km! The Veloland network has been carefully monitored since 1999, and the reports show that numbers of riders have increased steadily year on year, with the number of overnight cyclists doubling in a decade.
Across the EuroVelo network it is estimated that there are 45.5 million day trips with €0.7 billion in direct revenues, as well as 14.5 million trips involving overnight stays with €6.38 billion in direct revenues. That provides totals of 60 million riders and €7 billion in revenues.
As background, it is worth noting the relevant importance of cycling in selected European countries:
|Country||% Share of Cycle Trips||Km / person / day|
A now elderly estimate of cycle tourism put the number of cycling holidays and holiday cyclists at 2-4% of all holidays in Europe, based on discussions with experts and a survey of specialist cycle tour operators. It is believed that this figure has grown substantially mainly due to expansion in Denmark and Germany.
Future market shares of 4%, based on Mintel (2003) and Eurostat tourism data for 2005, would indicate a total value of European cycle tourism of €8.5-11 billion in 2025.
Within that estimated pan-European market share figure, there is considerable variation by country, with the UK estimated to have cycle holidays of just 1% of all holidays, compared with 1.5% in France, 3% in Belgium and Germany, and 3.7% in the Netherlands. Overall, it is estimated that there are 2.295 billion cycle tourism trips in Europe per year with a total economic impact of almost €44 billion.
In the UK specifically, it was estimated several years ago by Funding4Sport that there are 11.7 million cycling day trips worth £105 million and 5 million trips involving overnight stays, worth £180 million.
A study in Eire showed that the average age of cycle tourists was 45-55; 60% were male and 40% female; and they had secondary education and a significant proportion university education and professional status. 20% of riders were travelling alone, 50% were in pairs, and 20% were in small groups of 3-5 people. A German study by Trendscope also showed the duration of cycle holidays, with 30% travelling for each of 2-4 or 5-7 days, 32% away for 8-14 days, and 8% away for longer. On average, 40% of overnights are in hotels, 45% in inns / guest houses / B&Bs, 15% camping and 7% in youth hostels. 11% stayed in private rooms or with relatives, and 15% used other facilities, such as holiday homes and self catering.
According to Trendscope, the features that touring cyclists looked for were, in order of importance:
· Low traffic density & segregation from traffic
· Signposts for cyclists
· Route variety
· Road surface quality
· Cyclist-friendly accommodation
· Food & beverage opportunities
· Information material
· Public transport access
· Route density
· Places for resting
· En route cycle maintenance shops
There is a small but growing usage of bike hire, particularly for day excursions in towns and cities.
There is little emphasis on car and air travel to get to the cycling area. A study in the North East of England relating to the North Sea route showed a high propensity of travel by train and ferry to join the route. These results were replicated in a German study which showed that the share of rail is 3 times higher than for holidays as a whole, car travel to the destination is 30% lower, and air transport is 75% lower. It would seem that the environmental mindset of cyclists applies to their travel to and from a EuroVelo cycle route.
Perhaps this article will encourage those catering to tourists to also look at the inexpensive addition of addressing the cycle tourism market. It is disappointing – and an opportunity missed – that there are not many more than a dozen establishments listed for accomodation in or near the towns in Suffolk and Norfolk adjacent to the EuroVelo North-Sea route.