Bike tourism is fast becoming the next big frontier in luxury travel
Even though global travel is slowly returning, one pandemic-era recreational trend is set to continue: bicycle tourism.
Bicycle tourism has flourished over the past two years among those seeking an active getaway and the relative safety of the outdoors, and it continues to grow today. “We see potential double-digit travel growth in 2022,” said Timo Shaw, president of Vermont-based VBT Bicycling Vacations.
While most cycle tourism companies suspended operations for the first months of the pandemic, many reported an increase in pent-up demand resulting in many bookings in early 2021 as vaccines became available and later. in the summer, as international travel began to open up.
“The demand was high in 2021, but our season – apart from the trips we made to the United States in March – only really started at the end of August”, explains João Correia, founder of the luxury cycling tour provider inGamba Tours and a former professional cyclist.
InGamba chief marketing officer Colin O’Brien said the 2021 volume was a “healthy amount” given world events, and its only cancellation was due to the California wildfires.
Most companies were able to operate a semblance of a partial season last year, navigating rapidly changing travel restrictions while delivering a customer experience many travelers have come to expect after more than a year of closed borders.
For a long time, bike tours had a certain inherent divide: there were tours for more casual cyclists and tours for those who were hard-core cyclists, but the pre-pandemic momentum was already closing that gap with more offerings. suitable for all levels of ability on the same journey. .
Additionally, e-bikes, commonly referred to as e-bikes, have become a great equalizer.
“E-bikes are becoming an important part of our business,” says tour operator Tourissimo, founder and co-owner Beppe Salerno.
The company operates primarily in Italy and co-owner Heather Dowd notes that it gives more inexperienced riders the chance to ride on more challenging circuits, but e-bikes come with additional costs due to the weight of the bikes and maintenance. additional.
Dylan Reynolds, whose French company Ride & Seek organizes long-distance tours in several countries, says e-bikes also give older riders the chance to stay in the activity longer in addition to growing choice. popular for young cyclists.
“Over the past year, the stigma (around e-bikes) is now gone,” he says.
Bike tourism has long been popular in Europe (and broke several participation records in the first year of the pandemic), and companies have noticed that North Americans and Europeans share the demand for return as soon as the travel regulations would allow it.
“At the end of the day, what our customers identify with is the bike, so that common denominator makes people very similar to one another,” says Correia.
In most cases, bike tours were already a high-end travel option before the pandemic, with full packages going well into the four figures. The increased interest in private packages only increases these costs. The first to return to tourism were primarily existing customers with the disposable income and flexibility to do multi-day treks.
Companies are preparing for a record season in North America and Europe.
“This year we expect to have a banner year and all indicators point to that,” Correia said.