Cycle Touring and Covid-19: Survey Results
Last month we sent a short survey to our 17,000 newsletter subscribers and our nearly 2,000 past participants. We normally try to keep our emails to a minimum – monthly newsletter, annual survey, and the odd special announcement. But at the same time we knew that our cycling and travel community would have some really helpful insights into how cycle tourists are feeling right now and how and when (and if!) they plan to get back to cycling.
So we asked, and they generously contributed to this anonymous survey. We are so grateful to receive their input. THANK YOU to every one of you who took the time to share your valuable insights! Please enjoy a summary of the results below.
Who Completed the Survey
We had over 1,000 subscribers complete the survey in less than a week. We also sent it to our past participants and another 380 of them graciously provided feedback as well – that represents more than 20% of all the people who have ever ridden with us since 2003! Wow.
The vast majority of responses were from people 46 years of age and older with the majority of those between 56 and 65. Europeans and Canadian based respondents made up the largest portion.
When Will you Feel Comfortable to Travel Again
If there is one thing that is clear to everyone right now – presidents, medical professionals and cyclists alike – is that nothing is clear right now. Nobody knows when and how or if things will go back to normal or if a new normal is already upon us. When we asked people when and under what circumstances they would feel comfortable traveling again, the most common answer was ‘it depends…’ on so many things.
But with that said, most people seem eager to return to travelling either once government travel restrictions are lifted or once there is a vaccine or effective treatment. Many said they would wait a period of up to six months before travelling again. Europeans seemed most ready to travel right away once it’s possible.
Where Would you Want to Travel
Europe stood out as the number one destination where people would see themselves restarting their travel plans. Of the respondents from our newsletter list, 61% choose Europe as the place they would travel first, once international travel resumes. Among our travel-savvy past participants – many who have crossed Africa, or Asia or elsewhere by bike – we were surprised nearly as many said the same thing (57%).
We suspect that where you travel first isn’t necessarily where you plan to travel in one or two years from now and we know that there is also a demand for epic, life-changing, long term cycling journeys as well.
In these intervening months before international travel returns to full strength, we recognize that there is an appetite for cycle tours closer to home. Determining when and how we can do this inevitably has to address social distancing and whether some amount of this would need to be incorporated into our tours, at least in the short term.
43% said Yes when asked if they would participate in a tour that involved some social distancing, but they did have questions. What does that actually mean? How would that work in practical terms with camping, or at hotels, when eating together and visiting local shops. These are questions we’ll be answering in the coming weeks and months, as will many tourism and hospitality businesses as they reopen.
Staff & Vehicle Support
Regarding whether people would join a tour with some sort of reduced support (less staff or vehicles, and different support and food options), 58% of respondents said yes, they would be interested but they made a point of saying only if it were entirely necessary. For past participants that number drops to 54%.
Most people seem to like our current support system. Our past participants made it clear that we have a great system and if we don’t have to we shouldn’t mess with it. Having a bicycle mechanic to tune your bike, vehicles to carry bags and for the occasional pickup, and experienced staff to deal with logistics and emergencies make for an enjoyable tour experience (learn more about our tour services on our What to Expect page).
Also in the pre-vaccine era, if we are to run tours, will they be shorter? Are our multi-month, multi-country tours realistic in the short-term?
From the responses, it seems that in the short term at least people want to get out, close to home for short tours. Tours that are 7 – 10 days in length were most sought after, and people also commented that they’d be interested in shorter distances per day for this type of tour.
We have been named ‘experts in long distance trips’ by the New York Times, and we plan on running our trans-continental trips as soon as we can. But we also recognize that multi-month trips are not an option for many people with families, careers and mortgages. So perhaps now more than ever people could be introduced to bicycle touring with TDA, on one of our shorter trips, or on one of the many sections of our longer trips, which vary from 7 days to 3 weeks.
How Has Outlook on Travel and Cycle Touring Changed
What we learned from this survey is that the vast majority of our community of past participants and newsletter subscribers want to get back on their bikes and travel the world. This pandemic hasn’t dulled their sense of adventure, and for some there is a pent up desire to get out into the world and start exploring again.
Certainly, there are a few who feel their travel habits will be permanently changed or they may stick closer to home for the next few years. Many are understandably concerned about the safety (and the hassle) of air travel in the future. Some are worried about their financial situation, many are thinking more about hygiene, health, and what sorts of healthcare is available in the places they are travelling.
TDA continues to explore various tour options as the situation unfolds. We also know from past surveys that an outstanding 96% of our newsletter subscribers have said they were considering doing a TDA tour someday. That is something we are truly hopeful for.
If you are one of those considering a tour someday, we encourage you to reach out and ask any questions you might have or spend some time exploring our website or watching some of the videos on our YouTube channel.