People are beginning to travel again and cities are working hard to give tourists the experience they are looking for. Shared mobility plays a role in helping people to navigate urban areas and explore parks by providing the right mode for the different trip needs.
Tourism is a strong economic contributor to cities of all shapes and sizes. During the pandemic, tourism was almost non-existent due to lockdowns and quarantines – even city life for locals was at a standstill. Now with a growing vaccinated population, cities are opening up, people are travelling again, and there is a growing need to figure out the most convenient and safe way to get from point A to B.
Without a doubt, shared mobility plays a role in reviving tourism. Having access to a fleet of shared cars, e-bikes, mopeds, and kick scooters gives people the flexibility of choosing the right vehicle type to explore the city based on their own needs. If you started exploring a neighbourhood but ran out of energy to head back to the hotel, you can hop onto an e-bike or e-scooter for that return trip. If you just heard from a local about a must-do hike nearby, you can grab a carshare for that spontaneous day trip.
In a recent CoMotion LIVE webinar presented by INVERS, we gathered different perspectives on how tourism is reviving in a post-pandemic world. Along with Chris Anderson, Business Development and Partner Manager at INVERS, we were joined by Alexander Esposito, Co-Founder at Circuit; Manny Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Wynwood BID; Scott Kubly, Founder & CEO at Cabana; Patti MacJennett, Chief Stakeholder Officer at Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. In the following section you will find the gist of the discussion around this topic.
City Tourism is Bouncing Back
Patti MacJennett from the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board shared that for Los Angeles, tourism is one of the leading industries and largest job markets. This also means that during the pandemic, 1 in 3 jobs that were lost were from the hospitality space. For LA, getting tourists back into the city is critical, and there are signs indicating that the revival is beginning. Hotel occupancy has hit 70% on some weekends, up from spring occupancy rates of around 20%. A consumer sentiment survey found that across the United States, people are becoming more comfortable with and feeling excited about travelling again.
In Miami, some streets continued to host people outdoors as much as possible during the pandemic. Manny Gonzalez of the Wynwood Business Improvement District highlighted how the 48-block district was fortunate to have the support of domestic tourists over the past year. Since Wynwood is an eccentric, outdoor venue, they were able to work with the City of Miami to extend sidewalks to house outdoor dining for restaurants. Given the success of this program, Manny is hoping to get the outdoor space extended indefinitely. This would be a meaningful shift within the city, since parking in Wynwood accounts for about 45% of the parking revenue in Miami.
Staying Local with Road Trips and Visits
Even before the pandemic, travel’s impact on the environment was a growing concern. Both Germany and France were looking into banning short haul flights that could be covered by the train network and people were starting to look for ways to have a lower carbon emitting vacation. Scott Kubly from Cabana points to this growing trend as one reason why the van life has become increasingly popular. By hopping into a campervan and exploring the nearby beaches, nature, or city destinations, Cabana has been able to give people the ability to be “outside-y” without having to be an “outdoors-y” type – in fact, 70% of guests are first-timers to campervan trips.
Alexander Esposito from Circuit has also found that people who explore neighbourhoods are choosing to spend more time in the area, as opposed to seeing the main sight and leaving right away. The drivers of Circuit vans act as local ambassadors for the city and combined with the growing number of slow streets and pedestrian infrastructure, exploring neighbourhoods more thoroughly becomes an increasingly enjoyable experience. In addition, having the option to hop onto a shared e-bike or e-scooter also makes staying local more fun and convenient.
Chris Anderson from INVERS highlighted how shared mobility operators have experimented over the pandemic to adapt to the changing mobility landscape. For the most part, tourists and locals often have similar needs – both groups need a reliable service to get them to their destination without too much hassle. Operators who are able to understand this on a local scale will be able to provide the right vehicle type and service. With the right transportation option, people can choose a more sustainable mode of travel and further reduce their carbon footprint when travelling.
The Future of Tourism and Shared Mobility
To further support the growth of sustainable transportation options like shared mobility, federal governments can support operators by building out a stronger network of electric charging infrastructure while also addressing the root cause of current transportation issues. Scott recalls his experience working with government agencies and how improving transportation isn’t just about spending more money, but about figuring out what caused transportation to be this way and trying to address underlying issues. Similarly, Alex highlights that operators should be rewarded for optimizing and supporting better OPEX instead of CAPEX to avoid spending money in ways that could be used for more efficient solutions. This is where building stronger public-private partnerships come into play to get operators and governments to work closer together to solve mobility needs.
Shared mobility also provides an opportunity for more players to expand their business scope or just provide additional mobility options to tourists. Car rental companies who are looking to give people the ability to speed up the rental process could look into using sharing technology to enable 24/7 contactless rentals so the entire process can be done online via an app. Peer-to-peer carsharing services give people more vehicle options to choose from, such as sports cars or Jeeps, compared to the traditional sedans or SUVs found at car rental companies. Strategically placed docking stations for e-bikes or e-scooters can also supplement walking and public transit to be another option for people to explore the city. In short, shared mobility continues to innovate and grow alongside consumer demands and all these multi-modality options support tourism mobility and economic growth for cities.