New Zealand

Cycle tourism riding high as popularity grows

Bike trails bring direct economic contribution to the regions

New Zealand’s iconic Ngā Haerenga cycle trails are experiencing a boom in popularity and new research shows they are driving economic activity in the regions as well as benefits for health and wellbeing.

The 22 Great Rides of the Ngā Haerenga cycle trails network have enjoyed a surge in use from people on bikes and on foot, with almost 2.19 million trips in the year to 30 June 2021.

This represents an increase of more than 204,000 trips annually, or 10.3 per cent growth in trail usage.

The number of visitor nights in accommodation providers along the Great Rides cycle trails was 3.62 million in the year to June 2021, representing an annual increase of 18 percent to reach 560,000 visitor nights.

The report compares June 2020 to June 2021 data with research from the year February 2019 to February 2020, when there were 1.98 million trips.

Tourism Minister, Stuart Nash said cycle trails and cycle tourism not only benefit the health of cyclists and walkers, they are boosting local economies to further accelerate the recovery.

“Visitor spending attributed to the Great Rides cycle trails was $951 million in the year to June 2021, an increase of $226 million, or an impressive 31 percent growth in economic activity,” he said.

“Cyclists and walkers are spending more on regional accommodation, food, beverage and hospitality providers, and associated tourism and leisure activities like transport or cultural events. Cycle trails are bringing a direct economic contribution to the regions.”

The research estimated a total of $11 million of health benefits for those using the Great Rides, and many cyclists reporting an improved sense of wellbeing and mental health, increased appreciation of the natural environment, and improved physical fitness.

A second report, Cycle Tourism Insights, shows around 27 percent of Kiwi adults participate in cycle tourism and a further 18 per cent are interested in a cycle holiday in the next two years. The potential local cycle tourism market totals 1.8 million people.

“The re-opening of the Australian tourism market provides a prime opportunity to develop cycle tourism in New Zealand,” Mr Nash said.

“An estimated 21 percent of adult Australians already participate in cycle tourism, while a further 13 per cent are interested in a cycle holiday in the next two years. The potential Australian cycle tourism market totals around 6.9 million people.

“The cycle trails in New Zealand are world-leading and the network in the lower half of the South Island is especially impressive.

“Opportunities to develop the market include better options for those with disabilities and their families, bike-packers, a low carbon tourism option, better connected destinations, and improved accommodation, eateries, toilets, and cycle services on some trails.

“A lot of work goes into maintaining a Great Ride. They’re run by trail managers backed by around 800 volunteers and a very supportive NZ Cycle Trails Inc. and its Board. They do a great job planting native trees, fencing waterways, and protecting native species through pest management work. They can be proud of this evaluation report.” 

Around 43 percent of the funding for the Ngā Haerenga Great Rides comes from central government, including the Conservation Department, Waka Kotahi, and MBIE. Local government provides around 33 per cent, and the remainder comes from private sources.

The two reports, The 2021 Evaluation of Ngā Haerenga Great Rides and the New Zealand Cycle Trails and Cycle Tourism Insights Research Report are available on the following link:   

Mike Parker-Brown

Mike Parker-Brown is a UK-trained and qualified journalist and an award-winning travel communicator with more than 30 years experience. Since 2002, Mike has worked as a freelance writer and PR consultant providing his services to major organisations in Australia and internationally in the tourism, aviation, hospitality, recruitment and export marketing sectors.

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