COVID-19, bicycle tourism and the opportunities for the bicycle industry

There have been some positive outcomes for cycling as a result of COVID-19, including a boom in bicycle sales and mechanical services. These have come about likely as a result of many factors including more people enjoying the benefits of cycling for mental and physical health, commuting and family time together; grassroots and Government initiatives to make more space and safer conditions for cycling; and people preferencing riding bikes rather than taking public transport.

But the tourism and hospitality industries have suffered immensely. So what does this mean for bicycle tourism?

It’s difficult to predict exactly what’s ahead and the timeframes during which our lives will continue changing. While it might be some way off that international travel is back on anyone’s agenda, now is, however, a great time for destinations across Australia and New Zealand to focus on their bicycle tourism opportunities and experiences for a regional and domestic audience.

Bike retailers play a prominent and starring role in helping to attract cycling visitors, and you stand much to gain – especially if bike supply chains start to dry up and you need to pivot your business. Reaching out to an audience of visiting cyclists can help you to keep up traction and momentum – for yourselves and cyclists – from the recent bicycle sales across Australia and New Zealand.

Start planning now to identify what you can do to attract bicycle tourists to your bike store. Image: BSpoke Cycles, Bungendore NSW

The benefits of bicycle tourism as COVID-19 restrictions start to ease include:

  • All those new riders having recently bought bikes in nearby regions starting to explore broader horizons and itching to get out for day trips and weekends away just as soon as they’re able;
  • Cycling clubs and groups may be wanting some time away from those they’ve been social-distancing with, in their immediate households, and looking for some cycling get-aways with the riding buddies they’ve been missing these last few months;
  • Families and friends in (not-too) distant towns will be looking to reunite, and what better way to do this than by two wheels?;
  • Long-time cyclists will be itching to change up their routine and cycling routes, tracks and trails. Now’s a perfect time to encourage them to explore just a little further beyond their backyard;
  • Bike riding can be undertaken solo, in small groups, families and – once restrictions start to ease – by small groups of family and friends
Image credit: Patrick Ryan, Unsplash

Given the nature of close, regional travel, many visiting cyclists will likely bring bikes with them to your region. There may be some demand for rental bikes, but my suggestion is to focus largely on those who will arrive with their own bikes. Here are some great ways you can pivot your business to continue providing great quality service and offerings to visiting cyclists in the wake of COVID-19:

  • Customer service and a good old yarn – of the talkative variety, not the woollen type. It’s always king and will remain so. Now more than ever before, people will be wanting to chat and connect with others, including cyclists who are visiting your area. Make sure your staff are friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable – not just about bike products and parts, but also about the cycling opportunities in your area;
  • On that point, make sure you and your staff can provide information that visiting cyclists will want to know: where to ride – yes; but also be ready to give recommendations on places to eat, drink and stay, as well as other local attractions and points of interest;
    • Have visitor information, relevant for cyclists, available in print and online – maybe even pop into your local visitor information centre and grab a few pamphlets to have available in your store;
    • If you’ve got the space, create a special zone in your store with maps and visitor information available – especially the local bike baths and trails;
  • If you’ve got the space, create a chill zone where visiting cyclists can sit down and take some time out – including to read your visitor information;
  • Offer products that are unique and unusual, and make sure people know to visit your store while in the area to stock up on these;
  • Stock merchandise which doubles as great souvenirs for visiting cyclists, including branding with your destination and bike store logo featuring prominently;
  • Partner with local accommodation providers and hospitality outlets – your local craft breweries, best local baristas etc – to cross-promote each other and market together;
  • Partner with local cycling clubs to offer their visiting family and friends special deals or discounts at your store;
  • Differentiate your shop so that it becomes known as a must-visit for any cyclist when in your destination – it may be a great product offering, something quirky about your store, an Instagram-able feature wall…;
  • Partner with local cycling volunteers who might be willing to act as guides for visiting cyclists, with your store being the meeting and departure point.

Do you have other ideas or initiatives you’re already using to attract visiting cyclists? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Hero credit image: Alvin Balemesa, Unsplash