NATIONAL REPORT—The bicycle is making a big comeback. More than 500 cities in 49 countries now have advanced bicycle-sharing programs—evidence of the growing interest in carbon-free travel. In the lodging industry, making bicycles available to guests is becoming more common and even standard practice in some companies. Starwood’s Element hotels, for example, are required to have at least two bicycles available for guests as part of the brand’s Bikes-to-Borrow program. All Kimpton hotel properties offer bicycles as well. Properties offering bicycles as an amenity are meeting the needs of an increasingly green-minded and health-conscious traveler community. The cost of renting a car or the high cost of gasoline are also driving travelers toward two wheels instead of four.
Running a bicycle lending program on one’s own can be a challenge. “Some have underestimated what it takes to run one,” says Timothy Ericson, CEO and co-founder of Zagster. There are maintenance, safety, liability, and even marketing concerns that can be a hassle for a hotel owner or manager. Companies and individual properties administer bicycle lending programs differently but Zagster is trying to standardize the process by offering a turnkey solution.
“We charge a flat monthly fee per bicycle and that includes bicycle rack, installation, ongoing maintenance, insurance and technology,” Ericson says.
The Hyatt Regency Cambridge (Mass.) and the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia are Zagster clients.
“Hyatt Regency Cambridge is a proud partner of the local, bike sharing company, Zagster,” says Stacey Nichols, general manager of the hotel. “These spirited, young entrepreneurs are professional, driven and conscientious about our environmental footprint. Collaborating with Zagster has provided Hyatt Regency Cambridge the opportunity to support a thriving, local business, while offering an entertaining and active amenity for our guests. We look forward to continued success with our on-property bike sharing program.”
To use Zagster, a guest simply signs a waiver at the front desk and is assigned a bicycle from available inventory. Each bicycle comes with its own locking system, enabling riders to park them wherever they want throughout the ride. Locking system codes are provided online to the person at the front desk (or concierge) or to the guest. Also, the bicycle borrower can simply use a mobile phone to access the code at the bicycle itself and then log in again once the bicycle has been returned.
Packages Are Including Bicycles to Borrow
“We provide all marketing materials—signage for the front desk, concierge desk, brochures for rooms, and video for the in-room TVs,” Ericson says. “We are seeing hotels put together packages that include bicycle lending.”
Ericson says it is up to the hotel whether or not a rental fee is charged. “We’ve seen some hotels make money or break even,” he says.
At the 10 Element hotels currently offering bicycle lending, there is no charge to use the bicycles.
Ericson says his company has never had a bicycle stolen. Zagster bicycles, in addition to having a high-tech locking system, are built with theft-resistant nuts and bolts.
Start ‘Small & Conservative’
For those considering launching a bicycle lending service, Ericson suggests starting “small and conservative” and then adding more bicycles as the program becomes more popular. The Hyatt Regency Cambridge already has 15 bicycles in its fleet. “During the summer, all 15 bicycles are rented,” Ericson says. “The program has been very successful.”
While Zagster does not provide helmets as part of its program, some hotels are providing them. Element, for example, does provide them. Similarly, while Zagster provides a bicycle locking system, guests who borrow bicycles at Element hotels have to provide their own locks.
Hoteliers participating in or pursuing green certification programs of any kind should check to see if credit is provided for bicycle lending programs.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.