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Some perspectives from recent speakers and discussions

The Heaphy Track 5 month mountain biking trial begins on May 1, 2011, and will continue in 2012 and 2013.

Kevin Hague (MP and keen mountain biker) presented mountain biking as the fastest growing sporting activity in New Zealand and detailed the government’s long-range plan to continue developing a national network of biking tracks. He profiled mountain bikers as being of all ages but mostly between 35 and 55. Mountain bikers are almost equally split between the genders, and families with kids being a significant part of the mountain biking community. Mountain Bikers are young and old, rich and poor, mostly fit and healthy and their bikes/gear are expensive.

The Heaphy will be the premiere Bike track in the country, says Kevin, due to many unique features. It’s natural, wide-ranging forested beauty is unrivalled compared to other tracks. It is said that the Heaphy Track will be known as the ‘best back country ride’ in New Zealand. Kevin also mentioned that mountain bikers are a keen and communicative community of enthusiasts. Word of mouth is one of the most important forms of marketing within this group of tourists. They want to feel that they have been treated warmly and that their needs have been considered. They will promote their favourite destination (Karamea or Golden Bay) vocally and clearly.

Eric de Boer (Department of Conservation Programme Manager) provided much detailed insight and history of the Heaphy Track Mountain Biking Trial. He presented a well-produced power-point presentation . A DoC evaluation of the Otago Rail Trail riders found that on average riders spent $100 per day at their destinations. This figure was compiled in 2005 and has no doubt risen due to inflation. An estimated 4000 mountain bikers are expected to cross the Heaphy in 2011. This suggests that $400,000 might be spent by biking tourists at either end of the Heaphy Track this winter. On average mountain bikers will plan for a 3 to 4 night experience. If bikers do the same as trampers, it is likely they will finish their ride in Karamea

According to Eric it is a misconception that mountain biking is dangerous, not at all the reality. In 18 years of dual usage (biking and tramping) on the Queen Charlotte walkway there hasn’t been a single reported accident injury due to mountain biking. After years of research, review and lobbying DoC decided to initiate a 3 year trial to allow mountain biking on the Heaphy Track along with trampers during the 5 months of May, June, July, August and September.

Helen Wilson (DWC) presented a business perspective regarding opportunities generated by the opening of the Heaphy Track to mountain biking during the winter period. Helen pointed out that mountain bikers would choose to stay in Karamea if Karamea business could show mountain bikers that we are the preferred destination. Helen used these examples.

  • package accommodation, restaurant meal(s), kayaking, cave tours, etc. in to one complete price-experience.
  • accommodation providers work cooperatively with each other to share the wealth for the greater good of the local economy
  • shared discounts between accommodation and service providers
  • meet together and be ‘entrepreneurial’ in developing new experiences not yet available in our community

Communication, said Helen, was key to promotion, marketing and persuasion.

40000 bed-nights $400,000 extra into the local economy

How can we maximize this potential?

Local Karamea-Little Wanganui business people have been discussing strategies with these topics presently under review:

  1. Publicity and Marketing Initiatives (websites, newspapers, mountain biking magazines, social networking)
  2. A special marketing proposal by Michelle Wright (DWC)
  3. Mountain Bikers ‘Welcome Packet & Newsletter’
  4. Food & Accommodation Packages/Discount offers
  5. Bicycle Maintenance & Parts (still in need of a local supporter!)

The business group is planning to meet with Michelle Wright on March 23 when she visits Karamea with Helen Wilson of DWC. If you have an interest in building our collective winter tourism economy and would like to become involved please contact me by phone or email.

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