For the past two years the association of town councils of the western Costa del Sol (Mancomunidad) has been working on ways to encourage tourists to the area out of peak season. It has now designed a project called BicycleSleep, which starts this month with a website where cycling enthusiasts can find detailed information about routes and specific services in the 11 municipalities in the area.
These potential tourists will not only be able to find out about the roads and tracks they will be using, but also hotels, petrol stations and even repair shops and cycle hire companies.
The final touches are now being put to the website, which has been designed by the Cooperative Information Systems group at Malaga university. It has information about 100 companies who can cover the needs of tourists who will be cycling more than 170 mountain routes, 270 stretches of highway and over 200 kilometres of roads and tracks which are suitable for families.
The website, which will also be maintained by the university, is the tangible starting point of a project which is separate from the regional government’s Plan Andaluz de la Bicicleta. The project coordinator, Diego López, explains that the Junta de Andalucía’s plan was designed to find a solution to urban mobility, and although the Mancomunidad’s project includes information about downhill, road and mountain biking, and flat routes suitable for family trips, such as seafront promenades, it is very different. “We are talking about quiet places to cycle, adapted roads and mountain and downhill tracks which are signposted. Sport cycling, in other words, which has nothing to do with travelling around a city or town on a bike,” he says.
The Mancomunidad’s challenge is to overcome seasonal tourism and attract cyclists and cycling teams to train in this area during the winter, when the climate is favourable and there are fewer tourists staying in the hotels.
“It’s time for the Costa del Sol to take action and find new ways to attract visitors all year round. We have everything we need to become a benchmark for active tourism,” said the president of the Mancomunidad, Margarita del Cid, when she presented the project at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin.
“Thousands of cycling fans and triathletes from Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and France are currently training in adverse weather conditions, and we want to get the message across to them that they can train in unbeatable conditions on the Costa del Sol. We need to focus on this segment, because cycle tourism is one of the sectors which is expected to grow the most, and it can therefore play an important role in year-round tourism,” she said.
But what contribution could these tourists make to the local economy? Diego López says these sports tourists are usually aged between 45 and 55, 40 per cent are women and 60 per cent men, with a university education and good social status. They earn between 24,000 and 36,000 euros a year. Half of them usually travel in pairs, 20 per cent cycle alone and the remainder like to cycle in groups of three to five people. They spend an average of 57 euros a day, and stay for about a week. The average spend per trip is 439 euros.
Reasons for travelling
In Europe each year there are 2.3 billion cycle journeys and the financial return, in other words the direct economic impact of these trips, is 44 billion euros. Spain earns approximately 1.62 billion euros a year from cycle tourism, according to Richard Weston, a senior analyst of these impacts at European level.
The Costa del Sol hopes to obtain a large slice of this succulent cake to boost its tourism sector in the winter months. Although the project itself is not seasonal, it is true that the high temperatures in the summer months do have an impact on sports activities, which is why other times of the year are more attractive.
According to the Eurovelo network of European cycle paths, cyclists especially appreciate safety, continuity and a variety of routes, but also lovely surroundings and villages and towns in which it is pleasant to cycle. Clear information about quality accommodation, restaurants and services are also appreciated by those who like to travel on two wheels, which is why the Mancomunidad website includes plenty of information of this type, as well as clubs, shops selling cycling accessories, massage facilities, messenger services and much more.