Instead of returning from a well-earned break relaxed, rested and tanned, large numbers of Brits are coming home toned but windswept and saddle sore. Latest research from MINTEL finds, that Brits blew some £120 million on dedicated cycling holidays in 2006. Over the year, biking-mad Brits went on an exhausting 450,000 of these two wheeled holidays, with some operators experiencing as much as a 30% increase in bookings on 2005 figures.
But the research shows this is merely the tip of the iceberg, as MINTEL estimates that a further 2.25 million holidays taken by Brits last year included some kind of cycling adventure, such a day’s bike hire or a mounted city sightseeing tour.
"Britain is becoming a nation of cycling enthusiasts. Cycling has been given a new lease of life by recent environmental issues, such as sustainable transport, carbon emissions and eco travel. With these topics set to grow in importance, cycling holidays should continue to see a rise in loyal followers," comments Richard Cope, Senior Travel Consultant at MINTEL.
"An increased interest in health and fitness and this year’s Tour de France will also help keep the nation pedalling," he adds.
Despite being a niche market, demand for cycling holidays is set to reach new heights. Although 16% of adults (8 million) have already been on some kind of cycling holiday, as many as 12% have not been on one, but would like to do so in the future. This suggests that (6 million) Brits are on track to become first time cycling holidaymakers.
"Although fly and flop still dominates the mass market, many well-travelled and well-off consumers are growing bored with sun worship and are seeking more active experiences," comments Richard Cope.
"The growth of independent travel is creating a new breed of holidaymaker, who is resourceful, adventurous and hungry for a taste of authenticity away from the crowds. Cycling is a great way to explore the hidden secrets of a region, enjoy intimate contact with local culture and an opportunity for travellers to feel good about benefiting local economies," he adds.
Pedalling towards a bright future
Amongst 15 to 24 year olds, over one in five (22%) has not been on a cycling holiday, but would like to do so in the future, the highest of any age group. With these youngsters taking such a strong interest in cycling holidays, clearly nothing can put the brakes on the potential growth of this market.
MINTEL believes that the greatest future scope for the cycling holidays market lies in combining biking with mainstream holidays. Operators could re-brand more holidays as "cycling-plus" trips, offering cycling interspersed with other experiences such as R&R, spa, walking, boating and other hobbies.
"Whilst Britons cycle less than many other Europeans, we take more frequent holidays and cycling breaks have enormous potential. These do not have to be the preserve of cycling clubs and the Tour de France-emulating hardcore. Cycling holidays will also appeal to families, sightseers, and those simply seeking relaxation and escape from the crowds," explains Richard Cope.
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