The wheels keep turning for some businesses thanks to surging interest in Central Otago’s cycle trails.
The Covid-19 pandemic may have closed New Zealand’s borders but some operators were experiencing a cycling boom as domestic tourists discovered trails across the region.
Trail Journeys general manager Simon Stevens said bookings were looking good ‘‘in spite of everything’’.
About 30% of their business was international, ‘‘so we lost that obviously’’.
But an increase in domestic tourism had been helpful, Mr Stevens said.
Many tourists were coming to Central Otago because they could not go overseas.
‘‘They don’t realise what they are missing, and this is so typical of Kiwis — they travel the world but really don’t travel within their own country.’’
Bike It Now co-owner Kathryn Fletcher (Fletch), said bookings for the Otago Central Rail Trail were very busy, and there was good interest in the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold Trails.
A cycling boom was taking place, ‘‘cycling has, as a result of Covid across the world, absolutely exploded’’, she said.
‘‘Because it is a form of exercise where people can get out and do things and still keep themselves away from others.’’
The popularity of e-bikes had also generated interest, ‘‘it’s a worldwide phenomenon’’.
Even before the pandemic, people had been making bookings for next year ‘‘because that is how busy March and April is on the trail’’, she said.
Wanaka Bike Tours owner Matt Kirke said before the borders closed about 60% of his business was overseas tourists.
The Auckland lockdown was ‘‘devastating’’, he said. ‘‘We had zero revenue for two weeks’’.
But as soon as New Zealanders could travel domestically the bookings picked up.
‘‘They are all down here and enthusiastic and keen to look around, so it has been fantastic.’’
Some visitors from the North Island who had never been to the South Island before were ‘‘buzzing’’ with the experience — ‘‘they are just blown away with the beauty’’.
New trails could help keep momentum going.
Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust chairman Stephen Jeffery said work on the Lake Dunstan Cycle Trail was progressing, and he was hopeful the 54km trail between Cromwell and Clyde would be completed early next year.
At the moment, the trail was ‘‘basically complete’’ from Smith’s Way north of Pisa to Cornish Point, and sections from Cornish Point to Clyde that were being worked on, including the Waenga Bluff, ‘‘they are doing some pretty impressive work but it is technical and slow and there are more clip-ons to go in that area.’’
A cycleway under the Bannockburn Bridge had been completed and consents had been lodged with the Queenstown Lakes District Council for a section through the Kawarau Gorge.
Feedback on the trail had been ‘‘pretty overwhelming, because everybody can see from the highway what is happening and they are pretty excited about getting out there and riding it’’, Mr Jeffery said.
Tourism Central Otago general manager Dylan Rushbrook said recent research showed 75% of New Zealanders planned to take a holiday in New Zealand within the next 12months.
A top consideration was rest and relaxation and with Central Otago’s focus on boutique, high-quality and genuine experiences, ‘‘we think we tick that box really well’’.