The slow, five-star tourism experience

Combining cycling tourism and luxury hotels is possible and the partnership between  Cycl-e around  – the e-bike rental service developed by Pirelli – and  Borgo San Felice  is the proof. Four years after the project’s launch, we talked about it with Danilo Guerrini, President of the Italian delegation of Relais & Châteaux

Home Life Lifestyle wellness The slow, five-star tourism experience

“An organic, comprehensive project that perfectly matches the needs of the end-users”. This is how Danilo Guerrini defines Cycl-e around, Pirelli's pedal-assisted bicycle sharing service. The group has chosen to invest in micro-mobility for short trips and routes travelled using alternative, lighter means of transport since 2019 by equipping hotels and businesses with their fleet of e-bikes. For the hotels that choose this offer, like Borgo San Felice, Il Borro in San Giustino Valdarno and Il Falconiere in Cortona, which are just some of the Relais & Châteaux destinations with which Pirelli has partnered up, Cycl-e around includes e-bikes, a dedicated digital platform for managing bookings, a routine maintenance plan based on actual usage and the possibility of requesting supplementary maintenance, if necessary. Training sessions on how to use the platform and advertise the activity are also planned for the personnel in charge. Guests, on the other hand, are asked to download a special app to identify and choose the best routes to pick. Cycl-e around qualifies as a new kind of mobility experience, one that combines a focus on sustainability and regional qualification, with an eye on individual well-being.

Why do you think some Relais & Châteaux hotels have chosen to offer this type of service?

“At Borgo San Felice we chose to join the Cycl-e around project from the very beginning, integrating it into our services from its first year of operation. We were convinced by the comprehensiveness of the project, its ability to respond to the emerging needs of hotels, particularly those located in the hills, mountains and the degree of involvement of the personnel in charge. Our guests can travel sustainably on their e-bikes, immersing themselves completely in their surroundings and discovering new places at a laid-back pace.”

What sort of customers is using this service?

“We initially expected that the bicycles would only be used by experienced customers, cycling enthusiasts and people interested in the routes surrounding Borgo San Felice, but the user base has widened considerably over time. The various types of e-bikes – all pedal-assisted – that we can offer with Cycl-e around can be adapted to all abilities, allowing everyone to explore our areas. However, it is important to illustrate the correct use of the bicycle, informing the guest of the various types of roads they may encounter along their chosen route”.

According to the third National Cycling Report data, cycling tourism accounted for around 4% of the total in Italy in 2022. What role can Relais & Châteaux hotels play in responding to these customers and how can they anticipate their needs?

“It is important to work as a system, creating a network of players all interested in increasing the percentage to develop this type of tourism. The hotels themselves can become promoters of this holiday that I would call active, working with local authorities to identify the most suitable itineraries. This is what we do at Borgo San Felice with the municipality of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Safe routes must be created specifically for cyclists, offering continuous assistance and educating the population on sustainable mobility, without forgetting the digital dimension. Apps, platforms and a constant connection are crucial”.

How are the pandemic and the new way of taking care of oneself changing travel needs?

“The trend appears to suggest that of a return to simple, authentic experiences and activities, linked to the area of the stay and perhaps a little forgotten. The guest tends to look back to the past, to old-fashioned lifestyles, like holidays, in this case, of the 1960s and 1970s, seeking to experience intense moments in an all-encompassing way. Customers are actively seeking human relationships in the wake of the past years. They want to feel that they are being seen and heard. There was also a return to family travel, sometimes uniting three generations – grandparents, parents and children. They want to spend time together, sharing activities, like cycling”.

Cycl-e around is a project where themes such as sustainability, health and regions can intersect. How can partnerships like these be promoted nationwide?

“Everyone involved needs to be convinced of the goodness and effectiveness of projects like this, committing themselves to the creation of a real movement, capable of becoming collective, viral. I believe that hotels like Borgo San Felice have a kind of responsibility towards these initiatives. We need to disseminate them, share good practices, like those of northern European countries and try out new experiences, listening to our guests' feedback. More often than not, they are the ones who can suggest simple solutions to seemingly complex problems”.