Lesvos has become a magnet for bicycle-riding Turkish holidaymakers this summer, and municipal authorities say large numbers of Turks have been traveling to the northeastern Aegean island specifically for this purpose over the past few months.
The sudden Turkish interest in cycling holidays on Lesvos, just across the water from Ayvalik, is no coincidence, but rather the product of a concerted effort to promote alternative tourism on the island. Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galanos has held several meetings with representatives of Turkish cycling associations based in Izmir and Edremit.
The positive response to these overtures has prompted local authorities on Lesvos to move ahead with procedures to twin the municipality of Lesvos with that of Edremit. The latter is a town with a population of 130,000 that welcomes some 1.5 million tourists each 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 ties between them.
Lesvos officials believe that the flow of Turkey-based cyclists to the island could grow further in the near future, providing a vital boost to the tourism industry on the island.
Lesvos is not the only region in Greece seeking to invest in pedal power. The City of Athens is planning to create a network of bicycle lanes in the city center to be used by locals and visitors alike. The effort also foresees the creation of safe parking areas for bicycles as well as 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 international holidaymakers is also being undertaken by a number of other municipalities, such as Alimos on the southern coast of Athens, and the city of Rethymno on Crete. The latter has taken the additional step of offering special package holidays designed to cater to cycling fans from countries such as Italy, Germany and France.
Bicycle tourism has been on the rise across Europe in recent years and is becoming an increasingly important part of the international tourism market thanks to the heightened demand for activities that promote health, quality of life and which are more environmentally friendly.
According to estimates, bicycle tourism accounts for 2-4 percent of total trips in most European countries – a percentage that is expected to double or even triple to 6-12 percent in the coming decade.