Article sponsored by

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Abraham Leung, Transport Academic Partnership (TAP) and Transport Innovation and Research Hub (TIRH), Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cities Research Institute, Griffith University

Shared e-scooters are becoming common across Australia and in major cities around the world. Initial safety concerns about e-scooters left some councils wary, but early results from a research survey shows major benefits from e-scooters for tourists and local economies.

We already knew vistors and local residents use bike-sharing schemes differently. The effects for tourist attractions and visitors – an increase in visits and better experience – are complementary. But that’s bikes.

Until now there has been limited evidence that e-scooters help tourists either visit more local attractions or spend more. Australia’s first e-scooter trials began in Brisbane as recently as 2018. Services have since been launched in South Australia, the ACT, North Queensland and the NT.

While e-scooters may offer a low-carbon option for post-COVID tourism, do these schemes benefit tourist cities?

Read more:
Limes not lemons: lessons from Australia’s first e-scooter sharing trial

Avid e-scooter tourists spend more

Our research team at Griffith University’s Cities Research Institute partnered with Neuron Mobility to conduct a survey of Townsville tourists between December 2020 and February 2021. The survey collected shopping and travel patterns of 140 visiting e-scooter users, as well as the patterns of 80 Townsville residents (see the interactive map below). Some of these users had bought multi-day subscription passes.

Read more:
When 1 in 3 users are tourists, that changes the bike-share equation for cities

We analysed the visiting e-scooter users’ travel and spending behaviours. Though their e-scooter hire costs were identical, the visitors who rode the e-scooters the most spent more money in Townsville each day. The more avid e-scooter users (the top third by distance travelled) spent 41% more per day than those in the bottom third for use.

The avid users completed on median 11 e-scooter trips, covering nearly 26km each, while in Townsville. The map above shows how these visitors dispersed, experiencing more local destinations in the city.

Many of these trips (60%) would have been completed by walking if e-scooters were unavailable. They would have taken longer to complete each trip on foot, thus limiting the total number of destinations visited. Other trips wouldn’t have occurred at all. One user commented:

“We enjoyed being able to travel to areas that we would not normally have seen or were too far to walk in a reasonable amount of time.”

Many of these users said they did not need to use a car thanks to the e-scooters. This meant they were able to travel the Townsville CBD and the Strand without clogging the already busy roadways.

Across all the e-scooter users surveyed, most (69%) had never ridden an e-scooter before, but 91% reported they were easy to use. Confirming the positive impact of e-scooters on both city image and visitor experience, 93% said they enjoyed travelling within Townsville.

“It was amazing to see so many people enjoying scootering along the Strand and the mix of pedestrians and scooters worked well.”

Boomers on scooters – and it’s mostly women

A major misconception is that e-scooter riders tend to be younger and mostly men. Our survey found instead that 46% of the visitors who used the e-scooters were over the age of 40, many of them much older than that. The majority (55%) were female.

Of the visitors, avid users spent more money at restaurants and cafes, dining in. Light users spent a greater proportion on shopping and services.

When asked, visitors tended to be very positive about the e-scooter experience:

“Particularly liked the weekly pass which was extremely cost-effective. Would highly recommend and will use again.”

“A great option for a first-time visitor to Townsville to quickly see the sights and get my bearings of local attraction(s).”

Of the few negative issues raised, some visitors wanted the service area in which the e-scooters could operate expanded. Others would like some signage at preferred scooter parking locations to make drop-offs easier.

The word cloud above maps the words most commonly used by respondents to describe their experience with e-scooters in Townsville.

To sum up, our research finds:

  • e-scooter sharing schemes are a convenient and enjoyable way for tourists to explore a city

  • many users are travelling 26km or more on e-scooters while in town

  • e-scooters assist tourist dispersal

  • e-scooter use encourages tourist spending.

More questions to be answered

Our methods have been applied in Townsville only. We have also not yet compared tourist outcomes across different forms of mobility. But, on the face of it, there is now a case that tourist cities that adopt e-scooter sharing are boosting their image and tourism economy.

There are many things that we still don’t know about e-scooters and tourism. What is the scale of these benefits? How might cities calculate them when assessing mobility proposals?

When tourists disperse more widely, are they spending more in local “mum and dad” businesses and less in multinationals? What are the best pricing packages and bundles for tourists? And how can these technologies be further improved, and integrated with other modes of transport, to provide seamless, integrated mobility for urban tourists?

We will try to answer these questions in future. But for now, at least, it looks like e-scootering has been a major win for Townsville.

The Conversation

Abraham Leung’s research at Griffith Cities Research Institute is funded by the Transport Academic Partnership (Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, The Motor Accident and Insurance Commission) and Transport Innovation and Research Hub (Brisbane City Council). He is also an active member of AITPM and PedBikeTrans.

Benjamin Kaufman is completing his PhD research at Griffith Cities Research Institute in partnership with the Queensland Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads. He is the Managing Consultant at Microtransit Consulting which has performed analyses for the micromobility operator Bird. He is also an active member of AITPM and PedBikeTrans industry groups.

Elaine Chiao Ling Yang does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond her academic appointment.

Matthew Burke receives funding from the Australian Research Council, the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, the Motor Accident and Insurance Commission, Brisbane City Council, and the City of Gold Coast. Matthew is a member of the Queensland Government’s Fares Advisory Panel, Cycling Advisory Group and Bus Safety Forum, the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Transport Strategy External Advisory Group, and the City of Gold Coast’s Active Transport Committee. Matthew is a member of scientific committees with the Australasian Transport Research Forum, the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies and the Transportation Research Board of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has been part of the Institute’s collaboration with Neuron Mobility since their arrival in Australia.

This project was funded by Griffith University but the research team is extremely grateful to Neuron Mobility for their support and their willingness to share de-identified data.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of any institution. All errors and omissions are the authors’ alone.

ref. Wallets on wheels: city visitors who use e-scooters more spend more –