regional victorian bike tourism
Is it time to ramp up ‘bike tourism’?

We all love a good holiday, but unfortunately our travel bugs appear to be no match against a coronavirus.

The impact of COVID-19 of Australia’s tourism sector was abrupt and swift. In 2020, Australia experienced a $35 billion loss in tourism revenue, a 40 per cent decrease in international visits, and staffing reductions between 15-20 per cent.

By March 2021, tourism-filled jobs had fallen a further 5 per cent. The slow and grueling economic uncertainty lead some to label 2021 the ‘life-and-death’ year for tourism.

In response, our governments started to ramp up the benefits of domestic tourism. Victoria, for example, launched the ‘Stay Close, Go Further’ campaign.

And why not? Australia is a rich haven of natural and manmade wonders, fascinating heritage, and unique native flora and fauna.

Eventually another word was thrown in the mix: ‘bike tourism’.

Every time you pop out on a day of riding, you are engaging in bike tourism. You might be gliding along a rail trail with family, taking a gentle cruise around a lake, or you may have chucked your bikes on the roof racks to conquer one of the many mountain bike trails across Australia. Most importantly, you are enjoying yourself on a bike.

Of course, so much of bike tourism happens beyond the handlebars: we stimulate local economies, celebrate local and regional heritage, we get healthy, and holiday sustainably.

Most tourist activities, unsurprisingly, are undertaken using private vehicles, which leads to highway congestion and pollution.

Bike tourism offers an exciting opportunity to bring Australians out of their homes and back into their communities and regional areas.

It offers a sustainable and economic option, whilst providing the social and leisurely qualities that keeps holidays fun and invigorating. It’s also an opportunity to promote healthy behaviours and get our tourist economy back on track.

How can we do it? We should connect our rail trails and off-road paths with public transport and metropolitan bike networks. We need to upgrade and extend our bike paths, improve the carriage of bikes on trains and buses, and promote the benefits of being an active travel tourist.

In our 2022/23 Federal Pre-Budget Submission, Bicycle Network recommended the Australian Government spend $150 million per annum on a ‘local discoveries’ fund that supports local and state government to repurpose existing space with active travel facilities, or to develop and expand current facilities (e.g. rail trails), as a means of stimulating domestic tourism and regional jobs. 

You can read more of our Federal Pre-Budget Submission here.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.