A chance for cycling tourism and leisure cycling to shine
One of the sectors hit the hardest is tourism. Europe is the world’s leading tourism destination and tourism contributes close to 10% to EU GDP with 563 million international arrivals and 30% of global receipts in 2018. Efforts are now underway both in Brussels and in national capitals to support the tourism sector and to try and save the summer season as much as possible.
It is nevertheless clear that this summer is going to be like no other. Long established transport connections that the tourism sector has relied on have been disrupted (if not ended); many restrictions to international movement remain in place; and, without a vaccine, some forms of social distancing are likely to be needed for the foreseeable future.
It is still difficult to predict what kind of tourism sector will emerge out of the other side of the COVID19 crisis. What is clear is that these unparalleled circumstances do present an opportunity for the sector to reset some of its practices and to focus on a new, sustainable future for the industry. As the EU Tourism Manifesto Alliance, the voice of the European travel and tourism sector (of which ECF is a founding member), noted in its recent statement to the European Commission:
The German National Cyclists’ Association (ADFC), the National EuroVelo Coordinator for Germany, have developed a campaign setting out recommendations and arguments for decision-makers on the benefits of investing in cycle tourism, aiming to strengthen cycle tourism in Germany during these challenging times. The campaign includes a hashtag (#Abseitsradeln) and other supporting materials for the promotion of cycle routes “off the beaten track” and includes some consumer guidelines for people thinking of taking bicycle holidays.
- Upgrading the national routes: improve bad surfaces (e.g. potholes) and installing cycling infrastructure, signs, etc.;
- Upgrading small roads used by cyclists: 2-1 roads, cycle lanes, establishing “recreational roads” and cycle streets;
- Mapping of cycle friendly roads for a new junction network
- Helping small businesses become more cycle friendly: bike parking, tour suggestions, marketing etc.
- Develop suburban and rural cycle route networks: In addition to the infrastructure networks located in urban areas mentioned above, cycle routes should also be developed in suburban and rural areas to encourage leisure cycling and cycling tourism. This infrastructure can often also be used by local communities for everyday mobility too. Depending on the location, significant infrastructure investments may not be required, so such measures (e.g. signing) can be introduced relatively cheaply and quickly.
- Support for cycling tourism sector: The tourism sector has been one of the worst affected by the Coronacrisis. Cycle tourism is a growing part of the sector contributing an estimated 44 bn EUR to the EU economy every year and is linked to ca. 525 000 jobs. We should not forget the economic impact has hit the cycling tourism sector too and that many companies working in this field are SMEs. Such businesses should therefore benefit from the economic assistance packages that are being introduced in most Member States and also from the liquidity support, fiscal relief and easing of state aid rules introduced by the EU (where relevant). The Coronacrisis also represents an opportunity to reset the tourism sector by focusing investments in sustainable tourism models, such as cycling tourism, and introducing green conditions on financial support (e.g. state aid).
- Promotion campaigns: With millions of Europeans unable to take their summer vacations abroad, many will be considering options closer to home for the first time in many years. Cycling tourism provides an attractive option in these current times – healthy, environmentally-friendly, dispersing tourism flows – and should be promoted to domestic audiences. Measures to be considered include physical (e.g. posters) and online (e.g. adverts on social media) promotions, as well as accompanying updated communication tools (e.g. maps, guides, websites, apps etc.)
If you are aware of measures designed to support cycling tourism and leisure cycling at this time or are running your own campaign, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact EuroVelo@ecf.com.