Pedal Power: West Coast Capitalises on Cycle Tourism

17 July 2023
Development West Coast
Cyclists have been injecting significant funds into the New Zealand economy, with 2.19 million cycle trail users contributing $950 million to regional economies and gaining $11 million worth of health benefits in 2021, according to two Government reports. This has led to a surge in local businesses keen to tap into the trend, including on the West Coast.

A prime example is Jesse Paley-Atkins and his family, who are constructing their own network of cycle and walking trails through their 405-hectare property in Mokihinui, north of Westport, at Gentle Annie campground. The property extends along the Mokihinui River and the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by native bush-clad hills.

“We’ve had a significant number of guests base themselves at Gentle Annie to cycle the Heaphy Track, Old Ghost Road, and then continue down to do the Paparoa,” Paley-Atkins explained. The family is now working with the Kawatiri Nature Environment and Communities Trust and the Buller Cycle Club to establish trails throughout their property.

These new trails, Paley-Atkins said, would be "available for the local community to enjoy and will provide a different style of riding that will be another draw for guests to the area.” It's not just cyclists that the trails attract; visitors are keen on a range of outdoor activities, including walking, biking, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing, and fishing.

Notably, it was cyclists, particularly retired Kiwis, who ensured his business not only survived but thrived during Covid-19 restrictions, extending its summer season. “It creates such a fun, positive energy about the place, such a neat atmosphere,” Paley-Atkins shared.

Development West Coast economic development manager Jo Birnie noted that cycle trails were creating opportunities for various businesses in the region, from new product development to targeted marketing.

The Kawatiri Coastal Trail Trust calculates that the $9.36m Government-funded trail from Westport to Charleston will bring $18.2m to Buller’s economy over 12 years.

Aidan Schurr, general manager of Charleston’s Underworld Adventures, anticipates a boost in local businesses once the trail is complete. He foresees opportunities for food, coffee, and ice cream truck vendors and plans to offer hot showers to cyclists, hoping to entice them to stay an extra day for his caving and rafting tours.

With projects like these, the West Coast is successfully leveraging cycle tourism to boost local economies and draw visitors to its natural wonders.

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