Alps 2 Ocean numbers top expectations

DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014

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Cyclists are taking to the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) cycle trail in greater numbers than expected.

The trail, which extends more than 300 kilometres from Aoraki/Mt Cook to Oamaru, was declared fully rideable and signposted late last year.

This is the first summer the trail has been fully open and Tourism Waitaki general manager, Jason Gaskill, said he was pleased with the numbers of cyclists using the trail.

Tourism Waitaki does not yet have exact figures for the number of cyclists who used the trail over the December and January holiday period.

Mr Gaskill said at least one section has had upwards of 5000 cyclists pass through since the trail was officially opened in November, while other sections have attracted more than 1000 riders.

A2O sales and marketing manager, Jason Menard, said the number of people cycling the trail had so far exceeded expectations.

"User numbers are looking quite good for the trail. There are five trail counters installed and preliminary figures show higher usage than expected. This is very encouraging, and will help the businesses along the trail to grow. We have even been seeing operators start up new businesses to cater for users of the A2O."

He described the tourist attraction as "more than just a cycle trail" and said it had wide-ranging appeal.

Lake Ohau Lodge was a popular stop along the trail and owner Mike Neilson said there had been plenty of keen cyclists taking on the challenge.

"It's been a huge success for us. When we had the trail open last summer, for half of the summer, we had around 460 guest nights. This summer we are looking at over 1000 at the moment. The other day we had a group of 160 for morning tea, of which around 120 were cycling and the others were support crews."

Mr Neilson has received a "tremendous amount" of feedback, with the only negative comments relating to the strong head winds.

"People are loving it, absolutely loving it. We see them after they have ridden around the bottom area of Lake Ohau. That's a special section. They think it's fantastic looking up at the mountains and the lake as they come around."

Mr Menard said a lot of inquiries about the cycle trail were coming from cyclists in Australia, the United States and several European countries.

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- The Timaru Herald

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