It seems that every second car on our roads at the weekend has a bike rack, and locals and visitors alike are exploring our wide range of cycling tracks.
Cycling is the BUZZ in the Bay at the moment. You would need to be asleep at the wheel not to see cyclists on the Rotary Pathways, at Esk Valley Mountain Bike Park, or spread out around cafes and bars.
So is cycling our recreational point of difference? Will it be our tourism ‘silver bullet’?
Some will argue it is, and some will say that cycling is popular throughout New Zealand, not just in the Bay.
As a marketer, I see cycling as our real point of difference in attracting tourists to the region.
Why? We have a wide and diverse range of tracks – both easy and challenging. We have some great road riding loops (take the Tukituki loop) and in Hastings they’ve developed a safe commuter network.
Not only are recreational riders exploring the tracks with their own maps, but there’s now a range of cycling events that are fast growing in popularity.
At Easter, over 1,500 cyclists descended on the Havelock North Domain and then cycled the pathway, through Clive, across to Napier before ending up at a concert at Church Road Winery.
What struck me about the ‘Big Easy’ event was the wide range of age and fitness levels of those participating.
They weren’t competing in a race; they were out socalising with family, friends and fellow cyclists.
Along the way they stopped at cafes, bars and restaurants … spending money!
Cycle spending spree
I’m not an economic analyst; but here are some simple figures.
The entry fee was $25. So that’s $37,500. The riders then would have spent at least a further $50 each during the day buying food and refreshments. Another $75,000. And then those visiting the region would also have paid for accommodation, entertainment and more food and refreshments during the weekend.
I think it would be reasonable to estimate that the economic impact of this event was at least $250,000.
This weekend of cycling events has huge potential. The ‘Big Easy’ is only in its second year, and if everyone had a fantastic experience (which I’m sure they did) then the numbers will swell again next year.
It’s this type of event that could really put Hawke’s Bay on the map. What’s great about the ‘Big Easy’ is that it’s not Hastings or Napier centric. Unlike Art Deco Weekend or Horse of the Year, the event takes in the best of both cities.
Through Hastings, riders explore the wine and fruit growing areas, and then on to Napier’s art deco buildings, Marine Parade, bars and restaurants in Ahuriri before finishing in Taradale at an iconic winery with great music.
It’s a true collaborative event that brings together Tourism Hawke’s Bay, Sport Hawke’s Bay and our councils.
So if cycling is our silver bullet, what else could be added to the event or tourism portfolio?
Te Mata Peak opportunity
That’s an easy answer. Te Mata Peak and its surrounding landscapes. Te Mata Peak is our real jewel in the crown. It’s unsurpassed for its beauty and vistas.
You can only ride a long straight pathway so often, but you can never tire of the majesty of the Peak. It’s why local walkers and mountain bike riders explore the park everyday.
All that’s missing is the cycling tourist. It’s well known what mountain biking has done for Rotorua and Queenstown. The same can be achieved on the Peak.
There’s already a good track system for walkers and riders, but if these tracks were developed by professional track builders, mountain bike tourists would flock to the park. And these people have serious cash, with most bikes costing over $1,500, with some over $10,000!
Plans are underway for a state of the art visitor centre with café. The centre needs to cater for all recreational users and be a hub and meeting place for all users.
In my view, the Trust that looks after the Park needs further financial investment from all councils to create a world class facility, with plenty of space to park bikes and a bike wash-down bay.
There could be walking and cycle guides helping tourists explore the park and a commuter service to the top for walkers and downhill mountain bike riders.
Mountain bike tourism has exploded in Rotorua. Over $10 million annually is attributed to riders visiting Rotorua from throughout New Zealand and Australia.
Let’s get some of this cycling pie!