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Dunedin will see a ''quantum change'' in its tourism industry when the Otago Harbour Cycle Trail is completed in three years' time, Mayor Dave Cull says.
The ''tourist bonanza'' would give Dunedin global exposure as a cycle destination, Mr Cull said yesterday.
The 40km trail would allow cyclists to ride on separated lanes from Port Chalmers, through the city, and along the Otago Peninsula to Harington Point.
Ferries would be used to link passengers from Port Chalmers to Portobello.
Mr Cull said he did not want to understate ''the quantum change'' the cycle trail would make to Dunedin City's tourism industry.
''I don't know anywhere else in the world where within a city you can pass a marae, you can see a sea lion, stop at a cafe, go through the middle of a city, bike almost within touching distance of a heritage train.
''Given the rise of cycle tourism and the connections to other cycle trails around Dunedin, I can't see how this won't be a tourist bonanza.''
Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key said Otago's ''breath-taking mountains and diverse landscapes'' were highly sought-after by overseas visitors.
''A jewel in the crown is the Otago Peninsula which, with its stunning scenery and wildlife, has plenty to offer tourists.''
Cycling was a great way to explore such regions, he said, and the Government was investing significantly in cycling to make it ''safer and more attractive''.
Cycle tourism numbers were rising rapidly across the country - the Otago Central Rail Trail usage was up 12% on last year - and Tourism New Zealand was actively promoting the country as a cycling destination, Mr Key said.
Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie said the completed cycle route would ''throw open the doors of our beautiful harbour'' to the world's rapidly growing cycle tourism industry.
Overseas visitors wanted a ''real, honest and up close experience with the country'' - and this delivered.
''I feel like the city's voice will only get louder with this. When you think about where we are in the international market, this is putting a megaphone to it.
''Our tourism market could explode because of this.''
The project would bring ''an enormous amount'' of positive spin offs to the region, Mr Christie said.
Cycle visitors were generally well-travelled, financially secure, and wanted to experience activities alongside cycling.
He said Tourism New Zealand research showed cycling tourists spent, on average, $3800 per visit compared with the average visitor spend of $2500.
Dunedin bike shop owner and Olympic cyclist Kashi Leuchs said the harbour trail's economic potential was ''a huge opportunity for multiple business operators''.
''There's no question about it. There are so many business ideas. From accommodation providers, to cafes, to bike hire, to transport. And if you can add that ferry on, jeepers.''
Mr Leuchs said the finished route would become ''iconic'' for Dunedin.
''There aren't many places around the world that have got a cycleway like that, where for the full length there's that sort of scenery. This will be a world-class cycle destination.
''And if you've got that one iconic drawcard, and this would definitely be the thing, then people will come. And they'll stay longer.''
Mr Cull said the harbour trail, with its Port Chalmers starting point, would be irresistible to the city's 150,000 annual cruise ship passengers.
With businesses offering hire bikes, eBikes and guided tours, ''a whole extra cohort of cruise ship passengers'' would have access to cycle tourism in the city.
As those tourists made their way around to the Otago Peninsula end of the route, they would want to stop, eat, drink, wander, ''and that will have a massive impact on businesses that are servicing tourism out on the peninsula''.
Mr Cull said the council would be working to ''lever'' the cycleway into its marketing over the next three years.