At the start of the summer holidays, the topic of cycle tourism is at the forefront of our minds! The province of Vorarlberg commissioned a study by Rosinak & Partner, member of Cycle Competence, to analyse the potential for improvement in recreational cycling in the region. We present a snapshot of the findings: Vorarlberg performs very well in terms of everyday cycling and has solid strategies for mountain biking, but there is still room for improvement in the area of cycling tours and marketing.
This study (download in german) conducted by Rosinak & Partner in collaboration with Estuar OG on behalf of Vorarlberg Tourism GmbH and the Department of Road Construction of the Vorarlberg Regional Government, provides an overview of the current state of recreational cycling in Vorarlberg as a whole, focusing on both local recreational cyclists and visitors. This complements the existing analysis on mountain biking.
Status quo, regional routes, and usage behaviour
According to Vorarlberg Tourismus, the signposted cycling network in Vorarlberg is nearly 300 kilometres long. In addition, there are cycle paths along roads and many cross-border routes that lead to Germany, Switzerland, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Among them is the approximately 270-kilometer-long Lake Constance Cycle Path. To gain insight into the usage of this route network in Vorarlberg, the study authors analysed the routing data from the popular cycling app Komoot.
A total of 1,289 routes in the “Bicycle” category and 1,112 routes in the “Road Cycling” category starting in Vorarlberg were converted using a GIS system and visualised as a heatmap. This allowed the frequency of usage on specific routes to be represented: the brighter the colour, the more recorded routes on that stretch. Additionally, a comparison was made between the advertised route network and the utilised routes using the dataset from the regional administration.
Heatmap of bicycle routes in Vorarlberg according to Komoot using dataset from 18.10.2021 from the present study.
The heatmap shows that the regional cycling route network serves as the basis for many cycling routes. The Rhine Valley is generally heavily travelled with a surprisingly dense network for recreational cycling. Other areas with high concentrations are the Kleinwalsertal, the Bregenzerwald, and Schruns. The Lake Constance Cycle Path is relatively less travelled. The cross-border routes primarily lead towards Switzerland and Liechtenstein, with a few routes also visible towards Germany. However, the border towards Tirol is very rarely used. According to the study authors, this means that for cross-border development, there is already a very attractive offer towards the west that is being used but is not yet adequately marketed.
The road cycling routes show a similar pattern to the cycling routes mentioned above. The connectivity to Germany is more pronounced, especially across the Bregenzerwald, compared to the cycling routes. This is particularly attributed to the longer distances covered in road cycling tours.
Target group definition for recreational cycling apart from mountain biking
The potential target groups for recreational cycling in Vorarlberg were defined in the study based on the results of qualitative interviews, literature research, and internet research. Personas were used to describe these target groups, which serve as typical examples for each target group segment. This provided valuable insights for future offer development. The aim of the interviews was to draw conclusions for future offer designs.
Four target groups in the recreational sector were defined: “Road Cyclists,” “Families,” “Enjoyment 65+” with a significant share of e-bikes, and the new target group “Gravel/Retro.” According to the study, Vorarlberg has great potential for gravel biking due to the existing diverse infrastructure based on the official MTB trail network, including forest and gravel roads.
What do the experts in cycle tourism say?
For the present study, eight experts in cycling and cycle tourism were interviewed. According to their core statements, the focus in Vorarlberg is on everyday cycling, as evidenced by the high share of everyday cycling traffic. Similar to everyday cycling, quality criteria are necessary for recreational cycling routes. There is great potential in connecting existing routes by developing recreational and natural spaces, as well as creating experiential routes in the urbanised Rhine Valley. However, there are missing connections from Kleinwalsertal to Allgäu, from Bregenzerwald to the Rhine Valley and to Tirol, as well as a need for stronger separation between cyclists and motorised traffic.
The diversity of cycling infrastructure for tourist use from an overview in the study.
Conclusions for recreational cycling in Vorarlberg
The study concludes that, unlike other federal states such as Tirol, Burgenland, or Lower Austria, Vorarlberg has not positioned itself as a cycling tourism destination. There is a lack of a definitive offer and its target group-oriented communication. However, Vorarlberg is well suited for hub-and-spoke tours or circular tours that can be linked to existing tourism offerings. The key is to successfully combine regional characteristics with attractive cycling opportunities.
Apart from the regional road network and mountain biking offerings, infrastructure should be developed for recreational cycling to enable safe cycling on a dedicated network. This particularly concerns the target groups of “leisure cyclists aged 65+” and families. The gravel cycling target group finds ideal conditions in Vorarlberg through existing hiking and mountain biking routes, as well as new opportunities at events such as “Into the Wold” in Bregenzerwald.
According to the study, there are hardly any bicycle rental options in the regions. Therefore, it should be considered whether a comprehensive rental system can be implemented which can be integrated with the existing public transportation offerings. An example of an existing offering for bicycle-active tourists is provided by Rosinak & Partner member Kaloveo in Fontanella in the Großes Walsertal Biosphere Park, where over 25 varied e-bike and mountain bike tours with different difficulty levels are available to choose from.
According to expert interviews, there is a need to improve marketing in cycle tourism. Responsibilities within the state and cross-border coordination should be enhanced, as there is great potential in the direction of Switzerland. Aligning with climate-neutral and climate-resilient recreational and tourism offerings is a priority considering the impacts of climate change. The study proposes the establishment of a coordinating body for recreational cycling with its own budget and tasks such as strategic route planning, prioritisation of routes, and coordination of communication measures.
Download of the studie in german (2022)
Fotos: Benjamin Schlachter, Alex Kaiser, Stephan Schatz via Vorarlberg Tourismus und Martin Granadia via Bregenzerwald Tourismus