Hoteliers target cyclists with bike-friendly servicesDowntown hotel offerings include free rentals and designated bike butlers
Vancouver hotels are increasingly targeting revenue from cyclists as separated bike lanes and other infrastructure improvements help develop Vancouver's reputation as a bike-friendly city.
Vancouver's St. Regis Hotel, for example, is sponsoring the September 7 RBC GranFondo Whistler, the annual bike race between Vancouver and Whistler on a dedicated Sea-to-Sky Highway lane.
It is bundling accommodation with race registration, secure bike parking and a large race-day breakfast.
Other hotels have similarly jumped on the bandwagon to lure cyclist dollars.
The Fairmont Pacific Rim, for example, hired a "bike butler" for the first time this summer, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts regional vice-president Philip Barnes told Business in Vancouver.
He said bike butler Marc Henley provides tune-ups, helmets, locks, water, cycling maps, directions and tips.
The bike butler service was in response to the demand for bikes and bike services Fairmont hotels saw in 2012, Barnes said.
"It's a seasonal position. By the end of September, Vancouver's cycling season is pretty much done."
But the bike butler service has been a success, "so he will be back next year," Barnes said.
Expensive bikes are allowed to be brought to guests' rooms, although Barnes said the hotel encourages cyclists to trust its secure storage.
Guests who do not have bikes can borrow one of the hotel's 20 complimentary bikes to ride around town.
The Opus Hotel pioneered the complimentary bike strategy when it opened in 2003 and has since doubled its number of bikes to six from three.
"They are always in demand because people like to ride the two blocks down Davie to the seawall and then ride around," Opus owner John Evans told BIV. "We've had to replace many of the bikes through the years because they take a lot of wear."
Other hotels have been donors to charity bike events such as the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer, which benefits the BC Cancer Foundation and takes place in June.
Coast Hotels and Resorts CEO Robert Pratt said his hotel chain sponsors his Brainiacs riding team, which rides in the race and has raised $800,000 for the cause.
Pratt got into cycling when he started riding with Wedgewood Hotel general manager Philip Meyer – a former competitive cyclist – several years ago.
Meyer said the Wedgewood has raised more than $2 million for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. That encourages cyclists in the ride to stay at his hotel.
Other initiatives, such as Meyer's willingness to provide guided tours of Vancouver to guests, the hotel's policy of providing complimentary cycling maps and its secure bike storage, all help to attract the two-wheeled set.
The Whistler GranFondo is increasingly drawing international visitors, said GranFondo Canada's marketing director, Lindsay Carswell.
"In 2011, 35% of riders were from outside the Lower Mainland. That increased to 39% in 2012, and we expect that this year 50% of the riders will be from outside of Vancouver."
The ride hit its capacity of 4,000 riders in the inaugural 2010 event.
That jumped to 7,000 in 2011. Ridership in 2012 slipped to 5,000, which is what Carswell expects this year.
"The slip in ridership could be because the ride is on the bucket list of a lot of people to do once," he said. "Once they've done it, they move on."
A Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance study conducted in 2011 estimated that the RBC GranFondo Whistler generated $8.2 million for the B.C. economy, Carswell wrote in an email. This year's event will likely generate more than $6 million.