Great potential in tours

The two companies providing the lion's share of cycling tour services in Wakatipu both started on the day the Queenstown Trail officially opened in October 2012.

Queenstown-based Around the Basin Bike Tours and Arrowtown-based Queenstown Bike Tours guide cyclists in the Queenstown and wider Southern Lakes region, rent bikes and provide shuttle services on the trails.

Having seen a gap in the market, both companies are busy as their third summer approaches, but their owners agree there is some way to go before the market reaches maturity.

Queenstown Bike Tours co-owner Matt Hirst said his business had expanded in line with the growing awareness of the Queenstown Trail. However, achieving the mooted link with the Upper Clutha trail network via Gibbston ''would take our business to the next level''.

His attitude to competition was ''the more the merrier'', but the market would not grow by itself.

He was keen to see more accommodation providers offer cycle tourism-focused packages and contribute more to the marketing effort.

Around the Basin Bike Tours co-owner Steve Norton said he expected more growth at the ''softer'' end of the market - inexperienced riders with lower fitness levels - as people realised how well constructed and rideable the trails were.

A trail link from Gibbston to Bannockburn was an ''exciting prospect'' that would attract people looking for multi-day rides.

''Just imagine a continuous network of trails from Dunedin to Queenstown, up to Wanaka and linking to the Around the Mountains [Cycle Trail].''

''It all comes down to groups like the Queenstown Trails Trust - getting a good group of people together who are capable and making it happen.''

He owned another business, Rabbit Ridge Bike Resort in Gibbston, which offered more than 40km of downhill and cross country trails.

It was an example of a business that was not based directly on the Queenstown Trail, but benefited from the growing number of cycle tourists the Trail was attracting to the area.