Current studies and statistics on tourism developments and the motives of travelers in Europe show a clear picture (compare e.g. RA 2003-2016). Contrary to a widespread view, the demand for rest and health vacations has continuously decreased over the last 15 years. Vacation types associated with activity, nature and sightseeing, on the other hand, are on the rise. This has great relevance for the project region, where spa vacations with an emphasis on recreation and health are the predominant type of vacation on both sides of the border. Tourism will only remain successful in this region in the long term if it succeeds in positioning itself in future-oriented fields. It needs new attractive offers in the areas of sightseeing, nature and exercise. Bicycle tourism combines these three areas in an almost ideal way: People explore nature and the countryside in an environmentally friendly way by bicycle, discover often hidden cultural places and treasures of the region, and are physically active at the same time. It is no coincidence that bicycle tourism is currently one of the fastest growing fields of tourism, with an annual growth rate of more than 10%. In preparation for this project, several workshops were held with renowned experts. They were of the unanimous opinion that the cross-border project region brings ideal conditions for bicycle tourism. The special regional topography, which ranges from the Alps to the Pannonian Plain in a relatively small area, offers the necessary diversity for all target groups. It is as attractive for competitive athletes as for “pleasure cyclists”. At the same time, the region offers that extraordinary wealth of ecologically valuable landscapes and unique cultural highlights that make cycling interesting in the first place. This also means that the protection of this regional heritage is once again winning the necessary attention.
At first glance, bicycle tourism appears to be a comparatively simple tourist offer. In reality, it requires a highly complex interaction of a large number of very different players. Research in other regions shows that only those destinations are successful in bike tourism where the entire region stands behind the bike positioning. Tourism organizations and tourism businesses alone cannot achieve this. This was one of the many insights that the VELOREGIO project owes to the bilateral projects of the last period, such as Cycling or Naturkulinarium. For the successful development of cycling tourism, a functioning alliance of school and professional sports, cycling associations, cycling organizers, road owners, service companies, tourism businesses, municipalities, the state and the population is needed. The focus of the VELOREGIO project is therefore the cross-border development of a comprehensive cycling region in which all stakeholders are involved. Only when the entire region stands behind this positioning and the necessary framework conditions have been created in the region can cycle tourism offers be successfully developed and marketed. The main project partners in this project are therefore the public regional authorities themselves, Regionalentwicklung Oststeiermark GmbH as the body of the newly created statutory regional authority of Eastern Styria as the lead partner, and Vas County as the coordinator of the Hungarian partners. Tourism is represented by the Vienna Alps, the Tourist Association Region Oberwart and the Tourist Association Savaria, the municipalities by the City of Kőszeg. All partners ensure that all relevant stakeholders are involved in their respective regions. This holistic approach is explained in detail in the description of the individual work packages.