E-Bike Travel Trend pt4: How The Tourism Industry Can Benefit

How The Tourism Industry Can Benefit

By: Susanne Brüsch

Bicycle tourism is flourishing in Germany and other European countries. E-bikes are contributing to this trend with increasing significance. For tour operators there is a variety of opportunities to benefit from this trend by serving individualists, e-bikers with high demands and newcomers to e-bike travel.

In Germany, bicycle tourism makes a notable part of to the bicycle economy. According to official economic data, 167 million day trips are done by bicycle every year and 22 million over night stays per year are related to bike tourism. In 2016, the German bicycle tourism industry produced a gross turnover of 9.2 billion Euros. This number includes travel expenses and investment.

With the e-bike becoming more and more popular, the numbers above bear a big potential for growth. The pedelec (pedal electric cycle) opens up the world of bicycle touring to a lot more people than before the digital era. And the variety of assistance modes of the electric system allow to dose the extra push individually. As a result, differences in physical fitness are not a problem any longer. In other words - all of a sudden, youngsters can go riding with their grandma, families, couples and friends can go bicycle touring together and everybody can keep up.

In Germany, the market share of electric bikes has grown to 19% in 2017 (from 15% in 2016). Electric city bikes are the largest segment (38.5%), closely followed touring pedelecs (35.5%) and eMTBs (21,5%). Besides pedelecs, especially designed for touring, some city bikes and eMTBs can also be used for touring and bike packing. This means, that at least half of the German e-bike market - 720,000 units sold in 2017 - qualify for travel.

When we look at the German bicycle market in total – a 4 million bicycle market annually (3.85 million in 2017) - electric bikes still make a comparable small share of 19%. Touring bikes are the largest segment (30.5%) and they are non-electric (yet). Experts expect that this segment will gradually be replaced by electric touring bikes and potentially grow in total number. For tour operators this means that tour offers on electric bikes are the ticket to grow their future business.


Who are the e-bike riders?

Potentially anyone who can afford to rent or buy an electric bike or book an organized holiday tour.

In particular, I see three major target groups:

• Mid to high-class travelers

Middle-aged, well situated, often hard-working people who appreciate a certain level of comfort for their free time.

They enjoy the physical exercise while being out in the nature. Nice hotels, wellness, good food, glamping and caravanning just add to the pleasure.

• Bike, adventure and outdoor lovers

Young and mid-aged adventure-minded travelers who go for the challenge and the adrenalin.

They love the extended radius of action that e-bikes provide – longer rides, steeper hills, and more tricky terrain compared to regular cycling or hiking.

• Active 50+ generation

Well-situated, elderly people who love to travel and stay active.

They prefer pleasure over pain. This age group did not only kick-off the e-bike trend about 10 years ago - it also still represents the largest group of e-bike customers.


Why are they attractive targets for the tourism industry?

• They have money

People who can afford to pay 4,000 Euros or more for an electric bike, can typically afford to spend nice budgets on their vacation.

• They are busy

People who have the money often don’t have the time or the experience to organize a bike trip themselves with all the equipment and the planning involved. They are busy working, supporting their families, building their homes etc.

In daily life they may not have much physical exercise to keep a healthy life-style balance. A bike trip may thus be even more attractive, especially if they can do it together with their families, partner or friends.

• They happily pay for the perfect holiday

The two above mentioned factors make e-bike riders the ideal target group for entry, mid and high-priced tour offers in popular tourist destinations as well as in places off the main routes.


How the tourism industry can serve them

There are various ways, the tourism industry can benefit from the e-bike trend:

• E-bike rental for individual trips in

- cities,

- touristic hotspots such as scenic national parks and

- mountain bike destinations

can attract a wide range of e-bike fans and newcomers worldwide.


• Guided Tours

Guided tours for individuals and groups can include a variety of settings:

- City sightseeing with introduction to the sights and local cuisine.

- Relaxed multi-day or multi-week tours for comfort-lovers with introduction to local habits and produce

Trips of this kind are offered worldwide, with increasing demand, by first specialized e-bike tour companies such as Belvelo.

- Multi-day adventure trips for outdoor-lovers with camping, animal watching etc.

- eMTB tours for sportive challenge-lovers.


The number of regions and tour operators in mountainbike destinations is growing quickly and it is for a reason, that

e-bikes are called the “skis of the summer“ in alpine areas, where e-bike riders now fill hotels and restaurants during the summer when before the capacities were only filled up in winter.

• Battery rental / transport

- Battery rental of popular models in tourist destinations can help to attract individualists who bring their own bikes along by airplane but have a problem to ship the batteries. E-bike batteries are legally regarded as hazardous goods and require special shipping, which, for a private user, is not easy to arrange.

- The transport of guest’s own bikes for a booked tour creates extra work for tour operators but may be a service that e-bike fans happily pay for. Many of them spend thousands of Euros into the perfect bike which, then, they would like to use on an organized tour.


Such services would make sure a tour operator attracts a wide range of individualists, e-bike fans with high demands and travelers who are more or less new to e-bike touring and need bikes and equipment to be provided.

• Provide family-friendly equipment


Being able to serve families with a choice of kids trailers and/or e-bikes for children can broaden the target group.

This may be for rental in popular tourist destination or for guided tours, maybe even a trip offer especially designed for families with young children.