Mainstream British holidaymakers are waking up to the attraction of cycling holidays and getaways which include an element of two-wheeled adventure.
Tour operators who specialise in saddle-based holidays experienced a 30% increase in bookings in 2006 compared with the previous year, according to a report just published by the consumer, product and media intelligence supplier Mintel.
While cycle touring in its purest form will always remain the preserve of those who prefer to organise their itineraries independently, it seems that last year 450,000 Brits booked themselves on holidays for which cycling was the core activity. Mintel, however, says that only around 50,000 of these breaks were taken outside of the the UK. The company says its research indicates a further 2.25 million domestic and foreign breaks included some element of cycling, be it a weekend of mountain biking in Wales or day's cycle hire in a foreign city.
Mintel predicts there is likely to be further growth in holidays which incorporate an element of cycling into the more traditional 'fly and flop' style breaks, as well as a trend to add two-wheeled options on to breaks which are based around other activities such as walking or sailing.
The growth of eco-tourism along with cycling's general renaissance in Britain are cited as being among the reasons for the burgeoning interest in pedalling holidays.
"Whilst Britons cycle less than many other Europeans, we take more frequent holidays and cycling breaks have enormous potential, "said Mintel's Senior Travel Consultant Richard Cope.
"The growth of independent travel is creating a new breed of holidaymaker, who is resourceful, adventurous and hungry for a taste of authenticity away from the crowds. Cycling is a great way to explore the hidden secrets of a region, enjoy intimate contact with local culture and an opportunity for travellers to feel good about benefiting local economies."
Mintel says the UK specialist cycling holiday industry is worth around £120m annually.