Figures on the economy of bicycle tourism in France

Cycle tourism is a practice that continues to attract more and more holidaymakers, from France but not only, since 20% of cycle tourists come from abroad. Did you know that France is the second most popular destination for bicycle tourism in Europe, behind Germany? The economic spin-offs of bicycle tourism in France have increased by 46% in 10 years to reach 5.1 billion euros per year (Source: Economic impact and development potential of bicycle use in France, Inddigo – VetigoLab published in April 2020) A look back at this rapidly growing economy in figures.

Key figures for the economy of cycle tourism in France

Bicycle tourists spend an average of €13 more per day (€68 on average compared to €55 for other tourists). It should be noted that in France, 21 million people cycle during the summer period. There are 10 million stays with cycling activity per year, i.e. around 90 million overnight stays per year in France, mainly concentrated in the summer period (50% of stays and 60% of overnight stays in the summer). These figures are impressive, they guarantee the attractiveness of certain areas, particularly in stable jobs, which are impossible to relocate.

The average length of a stay is 8.9 days compared to 5.3 days on average for all French tourists. At the holiday destination, the main reason for using a bicycle remains walking and leisure (74% of respondents), followed by mode of travel (43%).

The share of stays with cycling activity reaches 7% of tourist stays in France, with a peak in July/August thanks to the weather conditions and the length of stays, which are longer during this period, further encouraging tourists to take their bikes with them when they travel. The cycling dynamic is more concentrated on the coast, with 8 out of 10 stays on the Atlantic coast.

The success of EuroVélo bike and cycle routes

Study on the economic spin-offs of the Vélodyssée.

The tourist offer is continuing to develop, as in the case of the “Loire à Vélo” route, which has doubled its economic impact in 5 years. The Vélodyssée, the 1290 km cycle route from Roscoff to Hendaye, opened in 2012, was the subject of a study – EV1 – La Vélodyssée, Study on attendance and economic spin-offs – in 2018, recording 94 million kilometres travelled by more than 200,000 itinerants, generating a direct impact of 103.6 million euros, or 80,000 euros per km. The development of the route cost 150 million euros, so it is a direct and rapid ROI, benefiting all the territories crossed by the route. A real experiential and economic success to boost the territories on Vélodyssée as well as on the other routes, which have seen an increase in traffic of around 20% over the last 5 years.

The attractiveness of the regions for cycling tourism

Cycling tourism is proximity tourism, since 50% of cyclists have their main residence within 200 km and only 5% of cyclists travelled more than 1000 km to get to the survey point of the study. This is an important factor in ensuring that the territory’s tourism policy is based on a sustainable approach.

In major European cities, the bicycle is both a mode of travel and a way of discovering the city, for example in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona or London… In France, this mainly concerns the city of Paris (27%, mainly young tourists), which wants to deploy a more powerful strategy to make the cycle tourism offer more attractive.

Bicycle rental and rental companies

12% of bicycle tourists rent their bicycles, a share that varies according to the territory (more important on the Atlantic coast) and according to the type of practice (mainly leisure cyclists). Cyclists who cycle almost daily rarely rent their bikes, and the opposite effect is observed for occasional cyclists, who also prefer electric-assisted bicycles. EAB is also rented more in cycling countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany compared to the rest of Europe.

As far as bicycle hire companies are concerned, there is a great heterogeneity in the size of structures, business models, fleets and types of fleet. It is estimated that there are 6,000 private bicycle hire companies, 1,300 bicycle dealers and specialist hire companies. There are around 400 major players with a fleet of more than 750 bicycles, the majority of rental companies having small and medium fleets (56% of players have fewer than 10 bicycles, 30% between 10 and 20 bicycles). The market continues to diversify by varying the types of bikes (EAB, mountain bikes, electrically assisted mountain bikes, cargo bikes, etc.), ranges and durations. In particular, we can observe the growth of mountain bike rental, which gives a new tourist life to mountain areas in winter, with a double activity of ski shops that also specialise in mountain bike rental. The market for tourist bike rentals is estimated at 178 million euros per year.

This study was published in April 2020 and it can be assumed that this year, as a result of the health crisis, the figures will be different for the tourism sector in general. Having said that, bicycle tourism has proved its worth in all areas and still has great potential for urban and mountain bike tourism. Cycling tourism in France continues to develop on the basis of a high-performance, local and sustainable economic model. Investment efforts still need to be made to develop the offer and make it more innovative by aspiring to offer real cycling tourism experiences, such as the tourist office in La Roche sur Yon, which offers bike tours connected via our Velco Tour solution. High value-added features around connectivity to differentiate oneself, generate more margin for tourism players and a better experience for tourists.