The Hilton hotel in Nagoya has started offering its guests free use of bicycles to get around the city, part of an experiment that the company hopes will be adopted by its properties around the world.
The campaign is part of the hotel's commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, General Manager Jamie Mead told Relaxnews, but is particularly effective in a city like Nagoya.
"We started the scheme because we wanted to provide a more environmentally friendly way to get around the city, but it's ideal because Nagoya is pretty flat, there are broad roads and cycling is a popular pastime here," he said.
The city's authorities started a similar cycling experiment last year, providing people who registered with the free use of bikes to get around, a trend that been catching on in major cities like Paris, Barcelona, Geneva, Stockholm, Montreal and London (which will roll out its program in July). The Nagoya scheme was a huge success and underlined the growing popularity of cycling, both as a form of exercise and a way of helping to preserve the environment. Cyclists are given a map of the city and a helmet before they set off.
"We have a range of top quality bicycles that come in a range of sizes that allow our guests to get around the city for free and mean they don't have to take a taxi or the subway," said Mead.
Japanese businessmen have been quick to embrace the idea, he said, and can often be seen setting off in their suits and with the briefcases on the panier setting off for morning meetings. The concept has not caught on so quickly with foreign businessmen, he said, but he remains optimistic that it will in the near future.
The introduction of the bicycles coincides with a number of green-related events in Nagoya over the coming year, including the Conference of the Parties Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) and the Aichi Triennale international arts festival.
"This is just one part of the environmental programmes that the Hilton is introducing around the world, and although we provide bicycles for guests at our resort properties, we have never tried anything like this before in a city hotel," Mead said. "If it turns out to be a success - and it is certainly looking that way so far - then we would be keen to extend it to other locations where cycling is popular."
Hilton's city-based scheme is a new twist on a bicycle rental schemes that have proved popular with independent hotels, and larger chains such as Marriott or Holiday Inn, in rural areas.