EuroVelo panel discussion ‘Cycling for all’ at the ITB Berlin 2016


During the ITB Berlin 2016, the world’s leading tourism trade fair, the ECF organized a panel discussion on an increasingly important topic when it comes to bike tourism: ‘Cycling for all’ or how cycle tourism has moved into the mainstream and is now appealing to wide target groups.  Below is a little summary of what was said.

The panel discussion was held on Thursday 10th March and involved three experts in the field of cycling tourism: Ed Lancaster, Policy Officer on Cycling Tourism and Regional Policy for the ECF, Raitis Sijats from the Vidzeme Tourism Association (VTA) in Latvia and Jeanette Dornbusch, Manager for the Romantischer Rhein Tourismus GmbH in Germany.

One of the key points of the discussion, highlighted by Ed Lancaster, is the fact that it is increasingly difficult to define what a cycle tourist is because so many different types of people now go on cycling holidays. This move to the mainstream is reflected all over the ITB fair as many tourism destinations now include images of cycling in their marketing and communication material.

The growth of cycle tourism is having an impressive economic impact.  According to the numbers recently presented by the German cyclists’ federation, ADFC, the economic impact of cycle tourism in Germany is estimated at 9 billion € per year, or 10% of the general tourism market. This is in line with a study commissioned by the European Parliament in 2012, which showed that cycle tourism contributes 44 billion € to the European economy. This growth is due to the fact that this form of tourism is now appealing to a wider variety of target markets.

Jeanette Dornbusch explained how EuroVelo 15 – Rhine Cycle Route is a very good example of a cycle route product that appeals to different groups, partly because of its ease of use. She stressed that in order to appeal to different target markets it is important to tailor your communication tools. She explained that demographic changes in Germany have created a growing target group for cycle tourism: senior cyclists.  The development of e-bikes has clearly helped this growth. She also highlighted that from a service provider standpoint, senior cycle tourists can help reduce the problem of seasonality, since senior cyclists are more flexible on the dates they can go on holidays.

Further strengthening the importance of senior cyclists, Raitis Sijats presented the Silver Cyclists project. This EU-financed project started in September 2015 and aims at creating specific tourist packages for senior cyclists, while using the EuroVelo route network as a backbone for these packages. The transnational cooperation between the partners, Vidzeme Tourism Association being one of them, is a key factor in sharing best practices and facilitate sustainable public-private partnerships. He described how Latvia is an ideal touristic destination for senior cyclists because of its flat topography. The EuroVelo routes 10 and 13 for instance, present very few hills in Latvia, but there are a lot of attractions along the way.

The ECF is supporting cycle tourism for all through the coordination of the EuroVelo network on the European level. Ed Lancaster ended the session by announcing that the EuroVelo network has just become bigger as a new route officially joined the network on Tuesday 8th March.  EuroVelo 17 – Rhone Cycle Route, follows the route of the River Rhone from the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean Sea, and further diversifies the products available for cycle tourists.