Cycling is often referred to as the new golf. This can be a very broad and general statement when taken on its own. But when you look at reports like the 2013 Resonance Report from the USA below, it’s clear that there is a lot of merit within that title.
Cycling is much more than an amenity or a status symbol or a reason to buy, although it can be all those things. It’s wellness on two wheels. And wellness is, as the New York Post recently reported, the new ‘cronut’ of travel and recreation. Compared to that, golf is child’s play.
In our own research on affluent U.S. households (HHI $150k+) for the 2013 Resonance Report, we’ve seen that while the current rates of participation in cycling and golf are virtually identical, twice as many affluent households want to try cycling as golf
Part of the appeal of golf was its connotation of status: an experienced golfer clearly needed both time and money to succeed at the famously difficult game. Road cycling, the new darling of affluent professionals (primarily men), offers a different kind of bragging rights: the time and money to purchase pricey equipment and train for official events or just friendly competition. For cyclists, like golfers, practicing the sport internationally is the cherry on this rich sundae.
Ireland has some of the best links golf courses in the World and is widely recognised as a premier golf tourism destination.
If cycling is the new golf, what does this mean for Irish tourism ?
Clearly a focus needs to be aimed at attracting foreign cyclists to these shores. But just how many potential cycling visitors are there. Let’s take a look at the numbers of regular cyclists (people who wear lycra at least once per week) in our main tourism target countries. Some of the most recent figures suggest that there are ;
2.2 million regular cyclists in The UK
3.4 million regular cyclists in Germany where 36% of the population travel on activity holidays. 32% of those stay for 8 – 14 days when on a cycling holiday.
24.1 million regular cyclists in The USA. 5.2 million of whom cycle more than 110 days per year. (18% of Americans claim to have Irish ancestry.)
A recent European Parliament study found that there are 20.4 million cycling tourism trips with overnight stays each year which is worth €44 billion to the European economy
What does Ireland have to offer a cycling Tourist ?
Thousands of Kilometres of quiet backroads, the majority of which are well surfaced. I have cycled thousands of kilometres throughout Ireland this year and found it very easy to find relatively well surfaced roads where you might only encounter two or three cars per hour.
The Wild Atlantic Way – 2500 kilometres of one of the most spectacular coastal routes in The World. Cycling is acknowledged as being the very best way to explore the Wild Atlantic Way when broken down into manageable sections. By comparison, Mallorca, where over 250,000 cycling tourists visit each year during their 3 month cycling season has just 350 kilometres of mapped out cycling routes.
Weather – Many will raise their eyebrows at this, but consider that the past few summers have been relatively dry and sunny. The temperatures are never too hot to cycle in. ( Looking at Mallorca once again, from May to September it is deemed too hot for many regular cyclists so their cycling tourism business is non-existent during that time ) American visitors have been captivated by the notion of The ‘WILD’ Atlantic Way. They expect and are not put off by some ‘wild’ weather. Cyclists tend to be less weather dependant than golfers, and look at how many golfers visit each year.
Ease of Access : Someone from New York or Boston wishing to visit Europe on a cycling holiday, using up 7 of their limited amount of vacation days from work can cycle for 6 if not 7 of the days when flying into Ireland. They would do well to manage 5 days cycling in most other places. Many currently use Ireland as a hub when travelling on to other parts of Europe. Why not keep them here ?
Cycling is extremely cost effective to promote
The average cost of maintaining an 18 hole golf course in Ireland at present is €990,000 per year.
The cycling version of a ‘course’ are our roads which are free to cycle on and need very little extra investment to maintain.
Hopefully, over the coming years we will see more and more overseas cyclists joining us on our roads to experience what we sometimes take for granted, one of the best cycling destinations in the World.