By Debbie Ward – March 2020 – 5 minute read
It’s one of the UK’s fastest growing sports but how can agents turn the nation’s passion for two wheels into some tempting holiday deals?
Why sell it
Active travel is in demand, as people take more care of their wellbeing. Two-wheeled touring enables clients to get off the beaten track and interact with locals and, in hot countries, sightseeing by bike is cooler than on foot.
“Cycling holidays are not only a great way to get under the skin of a destination and see more of what a country has to offer, they’re also one of the healthiest ways to travel,” says Explore Product Manager for cycling James Adkin. “Now is a good time to sell cycling trips to tie in with customers’ aspirations to get fit for summer.”
Technical advances are meanwhile helping widen the market. “2020 could be the year of the electric bike”, says Inntravel’s Head of Product Development, Alison Hall. “While our cycling holidays in general are showing strong growth, the big news is the e-bike which now accounts for 40% of these sales, compared to around a quarter last year.”
GPS has also made self-guided tours more viable. Cruise line Uniworld’s bikes, for instance, include Samsung Galaxy tablets with pre-loaded routes.
Who to sell to
Don't just think of fitness freaks! Most operators featuring cycling holidays label them with the fitness and experience levels required, from flat and easy to very challenging, and offer a choice of self-guided and guided tours, the latter including support vehicles.
The boom in e-biking has widened the client demographic further. Being able to book bikes with battery boosts means fit older people and the less experienced partners of keen cyclists can now feel confident tackling two-wheeled tours. As biking is low impact it can be also be a good sell to the eco-conscious.
What to sell
The terrain covered by tours will vary but tracks and quiet roads in scenic areas are typical. Hilly options like Inntravel’s Villages & Valleys of Provence are popular by e-bike.
For clients wanting to dabble, look out for sightseeing day trips in cities and at attractions like Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
While e-bikes are now common, Headwater is unusual in that it offers tandem cycles.
‘Fat biking’ with wide tyres suited to soft sand and snow is a new trend and has opened up interesting routes in destinations like Norway and Namibia.
Uniworld offers European cycle and cruise holidays in partnership with Butterfield & Robinson and AmaWaterways has tied up with Backroads to do the same. Scenic has e-bikes with GPS and several other cruise lines offer regular cycles.
Where to sell
Europe and Southeast Asia are particularly popular for two-wheeled adventures but there are many other options.
Intrepid’s top three cycling destinations are Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Morocco.
Explore’s 2020 best sellers are Dubrovnik to Split on the Dalmatian Coast and Southern Spain, taking in Murcia’s whitewashed villages.
Exodus' guided tours covering Porto to Lisbon, Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, Sri Lanka’s back roads, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, Italy’s Puglia and Matera and the Baltics, are its most popular.
The Rovinj Tourist Board in Croatia organises a guided weekend bike and gourmet tour of the Istrian peninsula each October and April.
For those who want to really challenge themselves, Intrepid offers part of the Tour de France route in the Alps while Wilderness Scotland is offering the Highland’s North Coast 500 cycling challenge for 2020 alongside endurance athlete Mark Beaumont.
Billed as Scotland’s iconic cycling challenge, it's a 500 mile loop of the Highlands beginning and ending in Inverness. With at least eight hours in the saddle each day, this is endurance cycling for experts. The route passes through remote and mountainous country, including Bealach na Ba pass, the UK’s highest and toughest road climb.
Among more unusual destinations for two-wheeled adventure, H+I has a Namibian safari on wheels, Exodus offers Bhutan, G Adventures features Cuba and Intrepid and Imaginative Travel have circuits in Colombia.
How to sell it
Many small group adventure operators offer cycling holidays, among them Exodus, Explore, Intrepid and Headwater.
H+I Adventures is a trade-friendly mountain biking specialist.
Cycling clubs are the logical place to market tours. Offer an illustrated talk on new and enticing destinations or, with supplier support, invite members to a specialist evening. Fitness clubs and gyms are other good places to approach.
Push e-bikes to cycling enthusiasts with less experienced partners and to fit clients who’ve not attempted a full cycling tour before. Remember, they can be left in non-assisted mode on easier terrain.
Use your database to target solo travellers looking for group adventures and families with teens who may welcome active holiday suggestions.
An escorted Pisa to Florence trip is among Exodus’s new product. It’s also debuting fat biking in Finland’s Oulanka National Park for winter.
New 2020 cycling tours from Headwater include a self-guided Cotswolds circuit, a section of Spain’s Camino de Santiago pilgrim route and day trips around Bavaria’s Lake Chiemsee.
Andalucia, from Cadiz to Herez and, more unusually, Lebanon, are new destinations for Explore this year.
Intrepid has new tours of Central Europe and the Danube, Prague to Vienna and road cycling in Italy's Dolomites.
H+I Adventures has added five new e-bike destinations this year including Switzerland, Spain’s Sierra Nevada and Namibia, the latter with opportunities to spot giraffe, zebra and elephants.
Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa and Aleenta Hua Hin Resort & Spa in Thailand have guided and self-guided cycling tours.