The significance of the bicycle as a means for daily travel as well as cycle tourism are strongly increasing. A joint study by CycleCompetence member Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) and the MODUL University Vienna commissioned by the Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism (BMNT) analyzed international bike rental systems.Together with experts success factors as well as the future potential were determined.
The study was based on a comprehensive stocktaking of bike-sharing systems in Austria with a strong focus on systems with at least two locations in which bicycles can be rented and returned. The data was collected via online research, information requests from providers, e-mail and telephone interviews. In total over 40 bicycle rental systems were identified. The map below provides an overview of regional clusters of the systems. The frontrunner is CycleCompetence member Kaloveo as B2B provider for hotels and municipalities.
Location of the regional clusters of the identified bicycle rental systems in Austria; Systems operating throughout Austria without any regional focus can be found in the box in the left corner (background map © OpenStreetMap Participants)
For the stocktaking of rental systems in Austria a list of criteria was compiled. It was checked which criteria were fulfilled and according to an assessment system a ranking was determined. The assessment system comprised five stages from very good (++) via neutral (~) to very bad (–). The list of criteria included the following features:
This feature aimed to show how high the access hurdle for touristic users is. It is assessed whether credit or debit cards are required, which booking channels are available (via telephone, online, on site staffed/unstaffed), whether staff is available for questions and whether a rental is only possible over the age of 14.
This shows how flexible the system can be used. It is assessed whether the system is available all year round, whether the opening hours are limited and whether a direct pick-up is possible or if additional waiting periods have to be expected.
The number of available bicycles is assessed in connection to the spatial expansion or, respectively, the choice of location. The density of the network shows how attractive it is to use this service. The choice of location shows how suitable the service is for touristic use or which types of trips are facilitated. An option to have the bicycle delivered to a location of your choice is automatically given the rating “very good” (++). The rating for the number of locations is linked to the size of the municipality or region.
It is assessed whether the same provider also supplies accessories or to what extent. This includes helmets, child seats, repair kits, trailers etc. A special focus is placed on the assessment of the provided cycle helmets.
The costs for the end user are assessed. Particularly relevant are rental options per hour, per day as well as registration fees and/or deposits. It is also considered whether the rental system places a time limit or is flexible.
- Different types of bicycles
Rental systems in tourism should offer various types of bicycles to cover the needs of guests and users as well as possible. This not only includes bicycles for children and adolescents but also trekking bikes and mountain bikes in rural areas as well as e-bike variations.
Knowledge of German should not be a prerequisite to use a rental system as it would exclude the majority of guests. The service should at least be available in English to suffice touristic needs. Ideally it is even multi-lingual but not all information channels have to be available in every language.
- Expert interviews
In total six experts were interviewed to be able to assess the future development potential for bike rental systems focusing on touristic use in Austria.
The cumulated results can be seen in this figure. Aktive Bike and Grazbike received the best assessments regarding accessibility and flexibility. One of the major hurdles to access was the necessity to have a credit card for registration or as safety deposit. A feature which can currently be found at many bike rental systems. Most systems got a relatively good rating when it comes to size/expansions. But most have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to accessories. Only nine out of the 40 systems achieved the best possible rating in this category.
Regarding costs as many as half were rated “very good” and looking at the selection of different types of bicycles a little more than a third achieved this top rating. The service offerings in different language offers room for improvement. Only three providers offer information on the bike rental in one or more languages in addition to German and English. This allows them to reach a large group of potential customers.
Individuality is very important
The three most important success factors for bike-sharing from a touristic perspective were identified as personal customer care, high quality and adaptation to individual needs, as well as attractive bicycle infrastructure and routes. The experts interviewed within the study emphasized above all an intensive service and customer relationship in order to be able to provide individually tailored offers. Increasingly important for customers is also the possibility of one-way rental for cycling from A to B.
While many aspects of the currently available systems have been rated well, several systems lack in terms of accessories and multilingualism. The biggest challenge, however, is that the Austrian bike-sharing systems form a largely heterogeneous landscape of incompatible systems. A supra-regional concept is missing, which means that the touristic potential in this area remains underutilised.
The potential of cycling related offers in tourism is generally regarded as very large. For the future, a further increase in bike-sharing is expected, which will be promoted by increased professionalization as well as individualized and customer-oriented offers. Further technical developments in the e-bike sector will also help to reach new user groups. At the same time, cooperation is becoming more important in order to improve the overall customer experience. As a visionary solution to this challenge and the identified current shortcomings, a common information and booking system for all bike-sharing systems in Austria or even beyond is proposed.
The 23-page brochure of the BMNT “Bestandsaufnahme der Radverleihsysteme in Österreich mit Fokus auf touristischer Nutzung” can be ordered HERE. See also this ARTICLE at AIT.
Photos und graphics: KTM, AIT, BMNT