Depending on the current Covid-19 pandemic situation in Spain, next February will be once again the cycling month par excellence in Andalusia, with the Almería Classic (February 14) and
the Vuelta a Andalucía (from February 17 to 21). Two events that have drawn attention to Andalusia as a potential cycle tourism market.
But why can we assume that this autonomous community fulfills the best conditions to accommodate this type of tourism?
We rely on a study by Fernández Latorre (2015), a study on tourist flows and cycle tourism as an emerging force in Andalusia, published in the “Journal of Andalusian Studies”, based on the concept of territorial capital and aimed to demonstrate the means available in Andalusia to invest heavily in cycle tourism.
When we talk about territorial capital, we should talk about the differential value of the elements that are integrated into a territory: from natural resources to historical heritage as well as to capital investments in existing infrastructure. Those considered as relational assets, associated with intangible aspects that provide a specific identity to a population, are also taken into account in this calculation of territorial capital.
Thus, a region that gather these territorial assets and links them in the best possible way will have many benefits in implementing new approaches to tourism development. And, as Fernández Latorre points out, Andalusia seems to meet these conditions perfectly, namely:
- Andalusia has very favorable climatic conditions.
The region offers a wide range of cultural and natural heritage. This is illustrated by the fact that Andalusia has the largest endowment of protected natural areas and goods of cultural interest in Spain.
The vast coastline extension of the different provinces of the Andalusian community.
It has the largest network of Greenways in Spain.
It's home to a consolidated tourism system, so they're not starting from scratch to attract tourism, it's just a new approach.
It has a polycentric system of cities with good connectivity, with medium-sized heritage centers that connect to larger cities. We consider this point to be quite relevant in the application of cycle tourism models across the Autonomous Community, as it attracts cycling enthusiasts of all levels.
It has the largest network of livestock roads in Spain (approx. 25,000 kilometers). Let us not forget that these are public networks and benefit from special legal protection guaranteeing their conservation. In addition, according to the author, they are a source of ecological connectivity and basic biodiversity, and facilitate the "settlement of the population in rural areas due to its economic potential".
In this sense, and according to the study, the link between hotel stays in relation to the length of the coastline, assets of cultural interest and the surface area of protected natural areas should be emphasized. According to the performed analysis, the Spanish regions with these three territorial patterns receive proportionally more visitors.
These are factors that should not surprise us (the sun and beach tourism model has guaranteed tourism success in Spain for decades) and it shows how Andalusia can fearlessly rely on seasonal and more sustainable tourism models.
It should be added that two of the international tourist markets most interested in cycle tourism, the United Kingdom and Germany, are precisely two of the most consolidated markets of the different Andalusian provinces, especially the UK. According to data from the Andalusian Institute of Statistics and Cartography, the British have always represented around 25% of international visitors.
Aware of this potential, Cycling Friendly has worked in the Andalusian community in recent years to help institutions and hotel companies take the right measures to promote cycle tourism.
More than 30 hotels have received a Cycling Friendly certification, qualifying them as centers specially prepared for cycling enthusiasts. In addition, it is worth highlighting the effort of cities such as Roquetas de Mar, Salobreña, Nerja, Islantilla, Níjar, Almuñécar or Mojácar to become more and more cycling destinations, allowing us to observe firsthand how the presence of bicycles for both leisure activities and urban transport are growing exponentially.