The island of Lesvos in the northeastern Aegean has, in recent months, become a draw for visitors from Turkey looking to combine their holidays with cycling. According to the Municipality of Lesvos, in the past few months large numbers of Turkish cyclists have visited the island specifically for this purpose.
The sudden Turkish interest in cycling holidays on nearby Lesvos is not by chance, but the product of a concerted effort to promote the alternative form of tourism on the island. The mayor of Lesvos, Spyros Galanos has been meeting with representatives of cycling associations in Turkey – specifically those based in the nearby cities of Izmir and Edremit.
The positive response to these overtures has prompted the Lesvos local authorities to move ahead with procedures to twin the municipality of Lesvos with that of Edemit. The latter is a city with a population of 130,000 and which receives 1.5 million tourist per year, thanks in part to its newly opened international airport. Following the twinning of the two municipalities, efforts will be made to further develop sports-based relationships between them.
The municipality of Lesvos believes that the flow of Turkey-based cyclists to the island could grow further in the near future, providing an important boost to the tourism industry on the island.
Other Regions Also Seek to Reap Benefits of Cycling
Lesvos is not the only region looking to invest in pedal power. The municipality of central Athens is looking to create a network of bicycle lanes in the city center to be used by locals and tourists alike. The effort will seek to also create safe parking areas for bicycles as well as establish a clearer legal framework regarding the operation of bicycle lanes.
The promotion of cycling both as a mode of transport for locals as well as a way to attract foreign tourists is also being undertaken by a number of other municipalities, such as Alimos on the south coast of Athens, and the town of Rethymno in Crete. The latter has taken the additional step of creating touristic packages specifically aimed at cycling fans in countries such as Italy, Germany and France.
In recent years ‘cycle tourism’ has grown markedly in Europe and is becoming an increasingly important part of the international tourism market thanks to the rise in demand for activities that promote health, quality of life and which are more environmentally friendly.
According to estimates, cycle tourism accounts for 2-4% of the total trips taken to most of European countries – a percentage that is expected to double or even triple to 6-12% in the coming decade.