Trail shows promise as tourist drawcard

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2013

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The Hauraki Rail Trail is proving a popular tourism destination in its first summer, attracting more than 10,000 cyclists last month.

Magnetic counters along the Karangahake Gorge section of the trail showed the popularity of the route was growing, manager Peter Maynard said.

"There was always going to be a big number. You get a lot of day riders and a lot of families riding through there and that is why you get such huge numbers."

The trail is popular with people aged 46 to 65.

More than 200 people have been interviewed along the trail since September and the Thames-Coromandel District Council is reporting a total spend of $24,000.

"As far as regional tourism goes, it is a great sign. The big thing is to get them to stay here [overnight]," Mr Maynard said.

The trail is well placed to take advantage of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga visitors, with nearly a quarter of users living north of the Bombay Hills.

A charitable trust looks after the day-to-day maintenance of the track and is fundraising to complete the section between Waikato and Waihi.

"We can't maintain and look after the trail unless we get people paying their way and the multi-day cyclist is the only way we can fund the ongoing running of the trail."

Bookings are up for the three-day cycle trail, with riders keen to meander along the 82-kilometre cycleway, taking in the scenery from Thames to Waikino. Visitors can hire bikes, and accommodation can be organised for overnight stays.

"It is the easiest cycle trail in New Zealand - it's flat, it's easy, it's interesting and people are just enjoying the experience."

The economic development manager at Thames-Coromandel District Council, Ben Day, said visitor numbers were an "encouraging sign" that the cycle trail would lead to future employment in the region.

"It confirms our prediction of the target market, that most would be of middle-age to a slightly older age group."

He said that was a "very attractive" demographic, but care was needed to tailor for the specific needs of different types of visitors.

"Baby boomers that aren't looking for anything too adventurous may differ from the families cycling the trail, which won't be necessarily looking for wineries but more family activities," Mr Day said.

On the web: haurakirailtrail.co.nz

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- Waikato

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