The world has changed significantly since our blog on “How a Cycling Business can Adapt in the Face of a Crisis”, just 2 weeks ago. COVID-19 has a worldwide strong-hold, cycling has been banned in Spain, Italy & France, & the international cycling tour industry has ground to a halt. In this blog we explore the immediate impacts on cycle tour businesses, consider what recovery might look like & when it will start to happen.
The COVID-19 Curve
You will be familiar with the bell shaped COVID-19 curve, normally accompanied by scenarios of levels of action leading to a lower peak in cases, easing the strain on the healthcare system. Everyone has a critical role to play to ‘flatten the curve.’
Each country and region is in its own position on this curve. At the time of writing, the number of daily cases in Spain is stabilising and showing encouraging signs of dropping, meaning Spain is nearing the peak. In other countries like the USA, the number of cases continue to rise steeply suggesting a time lag to Europe of around 2 weeks.
Within countries and using Spain as an example, there are areas much more affected than others, for example Madrid and Igualada have higher concentrations of infected COVID-19 patients. Much of the “locking down” has been to isolate these more affected areas so the virus does not spread in the same way to the less affected areas.
The length of this curve (time on the x-axis) is still unknown. From the first reported case in China at the start of the year, the country has now, after 3-4 months, returned to some kind of normality. Of course there are social distancing, safety, hygiene and cleanliness measures, however people are moving around and businesses are operating. Using that timeline in Spain and assuming similar results from lock-down measures, some normality is possible in May.
As well as the medical implications of COVID-19 we are all dealing with the psychological impact of what feels like a very personal, global pandemic. The numbers on the graphs are real people, with families & loved ones. Whilst we cannot imagine the devastation of losing a loved one to Covid-19, or the trauma of being in intensive care, or the worry of having a a friend or family member fighting the virus on the front line, the effects also reach far beyond those directly impacted by the virus.
Social media is rife with arguments and strong points of view, everyone is an expert & is ready to judge the actions of others – the reality is that everyone is handling the global crisis differently, everybody has their own personal problems and unique situation. It’s a ‘personal pandemic’ which has impacted the lives of millions of people.
There are many ways that psychologists are explaining this unique situation. In the following image we see that people who are perhaps suffering from fear may join in with panic buying or react negatively to situations surrounding the virus, whilst those in the Growth Zone may be more open to understanding each person’s unique situation. We’re all making our way in and around this spectrum, oscillating between positive actions & negative thoughts, plunging into the depths of despair at our surreal reality & rising up again look to the future & the good times that will come.
Social Norms: To cycle or not to cycle outdoors
If you are a cyclist reading this you have probably been involved in the argument for or against cycling outdoors during this period. The argument for involves the benefits of cycling to general health, both mentally and physically, as well as the low environmental impact (if the ride is a mode of transport). The argument against is, in the case of an accident, well-needed hospital resources could be taken from patients that need them more. Also that cycling in a group is not respecting social distancing rules and could result in spreading the virus.
This social pressure against cycling outdoors and in groups could have a longer lasting impact on cycling events and cycling tours. It is particularly interesting that even where bans on cycling outdoors are not in place, riders have received pressure from cyclists in places where a ban is in place.
In the UK, the bicycle industry saw an initial surge in business as Londoners swapped out crowded public transport for bikes & many took on board the health & well being message. Now the conversations are turning to discussing the length of ride which is socially responsible & no doubt opinions of cycling communities & public opinion as a whole will continue to shift as the UK continues its journey to peak cases. Most recently there was criticism of newspapers in the UK who printed misleading photos of cyclists appearing to ride too closely together.
However, we’re an optimistic bunch here at Eat Sleep Cycle and we know that cycling is a great way to get fit & healthy. We predict a boom in those cycling & even tacking up racing as everyone tries to live life to its fullest after weeks (or months) of restrictions.
When will flights begin?
We’re keeping a close eye on travel bans & flight schedules – as soon as these are lifted, when planes can fly & when it’s seen as socially acceptable to travel again there is no doubt that our business will benefit.
On the 7th April 2020 Jet 2 announced that flights would resume on June 17th. Easy Jet has not yet confirmed when they will be operating again, but staff have been given a two-month leave of absence, suggesting a temporary date in June. British Airways is still operating some “repatriation” flights under a UK government contract. Virgin Atlantic have suspended all flights apart from to New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
Although it is difficult to predict, current suggestions are that airlines are hoping to run flights in June, although it’s still unclear as to how many people will be choosing to travel by June.
What the experts say
In a recent report, Deloitte Spain created a handy graph comparing the predicted impact of Covid-19 on food, retail, restaurant & leisure, travel & the hotel industry compared to 2019. All sectors barring food see a significant immediate drop in activity and then gradually recover over the coming months. Critically, industries to not recover back to 2019 levels, even by the first few months of 2021. We’re in this for the long haul.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power & for a Spanish based European tour operator like ourselves, knowing that domestic Spanish tourism recovers more quickly than international travel is a great insight to have. In this scenario international tourism starts to pick up this summer, but gets nowhere near full recovery until the end of 2020 & into 2021.
What does all of this mean?
Cyclists are getting reacquainted with turbo trainers are are looking to data & power numbers to stay motivated! As a consequence we think riders will come out of this with great explosive power but gagging for some long, endurance miles in the sun. As soon as their personal circumstances allow we’ll be welcoming guests back on tour and to our Girona Hub for beautiful rides in the great outdoors.
A new appreciation of freedom. After weeks of restrictions which many generations have never known, people will just want to live & make the most of every day. Cycling, travel, new places will figure, but also a warm glow about normality!
It might be that we are more cautious as a whole about congregating in public spaces, it might be that people ditch public transport for bikes or cars. It might be that we celebrate the reduction in pollution & emissions caused by our massive shift in behaviors & realise the potential we have as a human race to guide the planet to a more sustainable, greener future.
Local tourism & ‘stay-cations’ will make a comeback – this is great for the planet & great for everyone developing appreciation for what’s on our doorstep. Perhaps we can create bespoke cycling tours which depart from our guests homes? There is something unique about pedaling to a new place from your front door…
How are we reacting?
We’re looking to the future & doing what we can to serve our cycling community in the present! For example, we’re kicking off our first ‘virtual tour’ this Easter Weekend. Cyclists can join from all over the world & take part in indoor cycling workouts, stretching sessions, nutrition workshops & even enjoy a social night. It’s great to have the excuse to collaborate with cycling experts in lock-down here in Girona & is set to be a novel way to spend Easter.
In the short-term we’re looking to local Spanish tourism for a summer boost & making the most of the downtime to develop our website, tour itineraries & online shop – all critical steps which will help us get back to the new normal as quickly as possible. We’re helping our guests navigate the minefield of travel bans and move their planned tours to later in the year, or to 2021 – it’s a tough time for the world but we’re sure everyone will be hungry for travel & a bike ride when it’s safe again.
What do you think?
We’d love to hear from you about your cycling plans! How are you coping now? Where is the first place you’d like to ride? Why not take our Cyclists Travel Survey & be in with a chance to win a cycling holiday in Girona?!
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