You never forget how to ride a bike. And right now, tourism officials are banking on the fact that you never forget how much fun you had exploring different neighborhoods on your bike as a kid – and they’re parlaying that into a new economy.
Bicycle tourism is growing rapidly. Fueled by Baby Boomers who like to stay active – but don’t necessarily need to compete – the economy of sightseeing by bicycle is showing a distinct upward trend. As a result, states across the U.S. are expanding bicycle networks and businesses are moving forward with bicycle-friendly amenities.
According to an article in Travel Weekly, upscale bicycle tourism (something that definitely would appeal to the well-heeled Boomer), has increased. And those who participate are taking part in large group rides throughout (and even across) the United States, as well as abroad.
The Adventure Cycling Association, as recently as two years ago, noted that the bicycle tourism sector was on its way to becoming more prominent, more lucrative and more likely to evolve to meet its customer demands. Bike tourism, in fact, was seen as an emerging sector in global and American travel markets, as illustrated by the release of the first-ever global survey of nearly 200 bike tour operators. Conducted by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the report demonstrated that the sector is becoming more organized and prominent in global travel.
According to ACA, in the U.S. in 2014, one of the most popular new regional networks to appear was the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route in central Idaho. That route was part of a budding trend toward bike tours on gravel road networks in the Midwest and West. Oregon had also added new scenic bikeways in a variety of distances and levels of challenge for cyclists.
In addition, ACA notes that more states and regions are discovering bike tourism’s economic potential. In Oregon, a 2012 review found bike tourism’s impact to be $400 million; in Michigan, one phase of a 2014 study showed $668 million annually in economic benefits to Michigan's economy from employment, retail revenue, tourism expenditure, and increased health and productivity; Arizona noted that a 2013 study showed $88 million in bike tourism-related expenditures from out-of-state visitors; and Montana could illustrate growth with a 2013 study showed that bike tourists spend about $75 a day, compared to the average tourist’s $58 per day; the study’s authors also noted the potential for multi-day bike tourism in the state to bring in $377 million.
Bicycle tourism is leaping onto the calendars in sports events as well. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine alone has three events planned for this summer and fall; all explore the state at different paces and through different routes. The Maine Sports Commission also announced a Farm to Fork Fondo, a cycling journey to different farms – something sure to appeal to the growing foodie tourism market.
But bicycle tourism is also growing internationally, according to Travel Weekly. In fact, after introducing a single Danube River biking itinerary last year, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Butterfield & Robinson have expanded their partnership to add several biking cruises for this year and next. Tours include what are being known as ‘active river cruises,’ involving eight-day biking trips on on Uniworld’s 160-passenger River Beatrice in September, and will host five additional sailings between May and September 2017 on the 150-passenger S.S. Maria Theresa. The Butterfield & Robinson river cruises will take place on the Danube River on cruises between Budapest and Passau, Germany.
And don't think boomers are just riding from place to place, either. Guests do cycle along the Danube River bike path, Europe’s longest dedicated bike path, between Germany and Bratislava -- but they also make cultural stops and visits in Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Linz, Melk, Durnstein and Passau, and participate in wine tasting in the Wachau Valley, a saffron workshop, and beer and bratwurst in Bavaria.
And with the recent announcement that once a month, Paris' famed Champs-Elysees will close to motor traffic and open only to pedestrians and bicycles, expect to see even more making (bicycle tire) tracks to that city as well.