Co-organised by ECF and Türkiye Tourism Promotion and Development Agency (TGA) with the support of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality and Enverçevko, National EuroVelo Coordinator for Türkiye, this year’s EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference took place in Izmir, a city on the Turkish Aegean coast with a history spanning millennia, from 11 to 13 October 2023. Considering the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ephesus and Pergamon, the importance of heritage tourism and the growth of cycling tourism in Türkiye, the Conference explored the theme ‘Cycling: a new perspective on heritage’.
50 international speakers from 17 countries, divided into three plenary sessions and six parallel sessions, discussed initiatives and ideas on the politics of cycling tourism, nature preservation, marketing and tools to promote cycling and heritage, cycle route networks, the future of cycling tourism, and much more. The Conference gave cycling, tourism and heritage professionals plenty of insights and ideas on developing new initiatives linking cycling and heritage.
The EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference also helped create connections between the delegates, thanks to social events such as the Welcome Reception and the Conference dinner. On the last day, a technical visit was the occasion to explore Izmir’s urban cycling infrastructure and the scenic EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route.
The Welcome reception at the Izmir Historical Gas Factory
The Izmir Metropolitan Municipality hosted the welcome reception on 11 October – the perfect start to three exciting days of networking. The Historical Gas Factory, a testimony of Izmir’s industrial heritage, was the beautiful scene of an outdoor reception. Traditional music, local food and drinks were the ideal way to reconvene and meet new and familiar faces in the EuroVelo network.
After the welcome words of ECF President Henk Swarttouw, TGA Acting General Manager Elif Balcı Fisunoğlu, and Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Deputy Mayor Ismet Orhan, the recertification ceremony of EuroVelo 13 – Iron Curtain Trail as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe took place.
Stefano Dominioni, Director of the European Institute of Cultural Routes, celebrated the award of this prestigious certification, which both highlights the quality of EuroVelo 13 and its importance for the European cultural landscape, uniting two parts of Europe that were formerly divided – and all this by bicycle.
EuroVelo 13 has been a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe since 2019 and is the only EuroVelo route to be certified as such.
EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference 2023: a spotlight on cycling and heritage
The key moment of the EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference 2023 was Thursday 12 October, when plenary and parallel sessions took place at Swissotel Büyük Efes in Izmir.
ECF President Henk Swarttouw welcomed all delegates to the Conference, before giving the floor to the Governor of Izmir, Süleyman Elban, and the Deputy Mayor of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Mustafa Özuslu, who stressed that Izmir is very proud to have been selected as the host city of such a remarkable event.
The Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Türkiye, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, officially opened the Conference, highlighting Izmir as the first city in Türkiye to be included in the EuroVelo network. “I am sure this Conference will have a positive impact on the development of sustainable tourism in Türkiye and beyond”, the Minister said, “Today the theme is shaping the future of cycling and heritage, and we want to further develop cycling and EuroVelo in Türkiye to offer more unique experiences to our visitors.”
After such a high-level opening, the event continued with the first plenary session starring Alex Crevar, Travel journalist, and Pinar Pinzuti, EuroVelo Council Member, Project Manager at Bikenomist, founder of Fancy Women Bike Ride and an Izmir native. The two keynote speakers highlighted the importance of cycling tourism to develop a destination in a slow and sustainable way that benefits the local community and gives a meaningful experience to the tourist. Alex Crevar said: “True sustainable tourism requires taking the time to create your own heritage story based on the story of your ancestors. Combine your heritage with your story, believe in it, and you will succeed.”
The second plenary session saw no less than seven speakers, discussing the politics of cycling tourism from the point of view of international bodies such as the Council of Europe and UNWTO – with respectively Stefano Dominioni and Alessandra Priante. The Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of the Republic of Türkiye were represented by respectively Erdem Özer and Onur Gözet. Former MEP and godfather of EuroVelo 13, Michael Cramer, was also on stage, together with Ioannis Pappas, Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Jill Warren, representing ECF.
Jill Warren mentioned the three keys to developing cycling tourism – safety, accessibility and inclusivity – and the power that it has to encourage people to cycle more, even in everyday life.
Six insightful parallel sessions
It was then the turn of parallel sessions, three at the same time. In the first morning sessions, the focus was on marketing strategies to promote cycling tourism – with representatives from the Dutch and Turkish tourism boards and two National EuroVelo Coordination Centres, Pro Velo and ADFC. The panel discussed how to motivate new audiences to join the cycling community by exploring four key themes: resonating with younger people, practical insights from past campaigns, the role of technology, and structured cycling experiences.
Lecturers offered different approaches to nature preservation and cycling, including good practices from the ECO-CICLE project; insights into more and better tourism in Belgian Limburg; mountain heritage for nature lovers on The Blockline circuit; and results from the Sport #WithoutWaste initiative in Türkiye. A fast pedal talk explored a variety of cycling products promoting heritage from all over Europe (the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Albania, Slovenia and Türkiye).
After a scenic open-air lunch in the shadow of palms, it was time for more parallel sessions. This time, a fast pedal talk gave an overview of eight different tools to connect cycling to heritage – from TV shows to guidebooks, from nudging to a bike-sharing scheme, from a museum exhibition to an app. In a nearby room, the focus was on cycle route networks, with a panel discussion on how cycle routes can link rural and urban heritage.
Last, but not least, cycling-friendly services and the interaction with heritage sites were the topics of a lecture. Many tips and recommendations were shared on how to encourage more people to cycle to a heritage site thanks to simple and cheap facilities, detailed information, national cycling-friendly service schemes, or connection to greenways, along with concrete examples and best practices.
Looking at the future and unveiling the 2024 EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference host city
To conclude an intense day of sessions, we took a look at the future of cycling tourism. EuroVelo Manager Agathe Daudibon moderated a lively discussion with a varied set of professionals, discussing the tourism industry in Europe and beyond with Gergana Nikolova of ATTA, the boom of gravel cycling with expert Loek Luijbregts, the potential of developing cycling tourism in Türkiye with academic Alparslan Güvenç, and the work to make France a top European cycling destination with Karine Dupuy, France Vélo Tourisme.
The closing remarks by Jill Warren, Elif Balcı Fisunoğlu, and EuroVelo Council Chair, Jesper Pørksen, were the occasion to thank the participants and to unveil the host city of the next EuroVelo Conference: we look forward to welcoming the EuroVelo and cycling tourism community again from 23 to 25 September 2024, in Viborg, Denmark!
A scenic EuroVelo Conference Dinner
The EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference continued with a memorable dinner at the Ancient Smyrna Agora. The stunning sunset framed an amazing venue, surrounded by the ruins of the ancient city’s meeting place and enjoying the best local specialities, music and dances.
In his speech, the Mayor of Izmir Mustafa Tunç Soyer – a cyclist himself – highlighted the work to make cycling a fully-fledged means of transport in Izmir and beyond. The climate crisis is the main reason for switching to a sustainable transport policy and for introducing the concept of Circular Culture. “While developing Izmir as a more livable city, we ensure that our policies are in harmony with nature, with each other, with our past, and with change. Therefore, today's conference is of great importance to us. EuroVelo paves the way for a future of harmony.” We could not agree more!
Exploring EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route on bicycles
A technical visit on the morning of Friday 13 October concluded the three days. On Bisim bicycles – the bike-sharing scheme of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality – Conference delegates set out to explore Izmir’s cycling infrastructure, including the Kültürpark and the Izmir stretch of EuroVelo 8 – Mediterranean Route, which follows the coast of the Gulf of Izmir. The highlight of the technical visit was the ferry boat that allows tourists and locals to carry their bicycles from one side to the other of the Gulf for a symbolic amount of 0,05 Turkish Lira. After carrying Bisim bikes on the ferry and cycling on another sun-kissed stretch of EuroVelo 8, it was time to say goodbye to Izmir and a very successful edition of the EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference.
Together with a big thank you to all delegates and everyone who has been involved in the Conference, we remind you that you can access the presentations of the Conference speakers on the EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference 2023 website.
See you at next year’s EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference in Viborg, Denmark, from 23 to 25 September 2024!
The call for applications to host the 2025 edition of the EuroVelo & Cycling Tourism Conference is open until 31 January 2024: interested cities/regions are invited to read more information and request the bid manual.