In early October, 500 delegates attended the annual event “Rencontres Vélo & Territoires” in Bourges (Centre-Val de Loire region, France). ECF President Henk Swarttouw took part in the opening panel discussion on the French national cycling strategy. Vélo & Territoires, National EuroVelo Coordination Centre, highlighted cycling tourism-related topics in three different sessions of its event. The EuroVelo Management Team attended the conference and reports on four hot topics in cycling tourism.
Cycling tourism in urban areas
Cycling tourism is also about urban areas, with their specific challenges. They are related to offering high-quality services (especially parking), guiding cycling tourists in dense urban contexts, or offering alternative means of transportation for bike tourists. Signage of cycle routes can be a challenge in heritage sites, for example. Cycling tourists often begin or finish their trips in cities, but do not keep good memories of it. How can urban stakeholders take this into account and improve their offer for cycling tourists? Paris and Tours shared their experiences, while Ecovelo and Paulette bike presented their offers as private companies and Solilab showed how a social economy initiative can meet the needs of cycling tourists.
Storytelling and cycling infrastructures
The quality of a cycling route does not only rely on good route infrastructure per se, although the infrastructure is necessary to give access to all types of cyclists. To make the user experience unique, cycle infrastructure can tell a story, embodying its history or geography. From a Pilgrim route history with “Saint-Jacques à vélo” to a heritage tribute with the “Canal de Berry à vélo”, or a rural territory outreach with cycling loops “Les Loges à vélo” – cycling surfaces, landscapes, equipment and signage play an important role!
Digital tools to promote cycling tourism are booming with solutions presented at Vélo & Territoires’ event by Komoot, Géovélo, Outdoor Active, Decathlon Outdoor, France Vélo Tourisme and Google Street View. This is symptomatic of the growing interest of various kinds of stakeholders in cycling tourism. But there is still an open question: which solution is the best?
Becoming the first destination for cycling tourism in the World
Cycling tourism is a specific objective in the new French strategy for tourism – “Destination France” and included in the national cycling strategy, launched on 20 September. €6 million of financial support for 2023-2024 is available via the programme “Développer le vélotourisme”. 3 funding areas are defined: parking facilities for tourist sites and attractions, to help them meet “Accueil Vélo®” certification requirements; rest areas implemented by public stakeholders; support studies led by cycling itinerary committees, which include EuroVelo routes. The goal is ambitious: make France the first destination for cycling tourism worldwide.
To conclude, France continues its positive dynamic on cycling tourism, which started some decades ago. Figures are now showing the results with increasing numbers on various topics: usage, web statistics or cycling-friendly services (see the key figures of cycling tourism in France in 2021).
Article by Agathe Daudibon
Cover picture: © Vélo & Territoires, Flickr