Central Otago Trail popularity grows

Neville Grubb
Neville Grubb
The Otago Central Rail Trail continues to grow in popularity despite the recession.

This year's season, which generally winds down at the end of April, was the busiest recorded - in keeping with a progressive annual increase in the number of people choosing to cycle the trail.

Rail Trail Operators Inc chairman Neville Grubb said an estimated 11,000 people completed the trail this season, which was between 500 and 600 more than last year.

School holidays in April proved the busiest time for operators, he said.

Mr Grubb said in general the trail's popularity continued to grow, although the demographic of those cycling it were changing.

"Last year, about 2% or 3% of people on the trail were from overseas and this year that figure rose to about 9%. There is definitely an increased awareness of the trail overseas, as well as of Central Otago in general," he said.

It was the dominance of domestic rail trailers, however, which contributed to this season's success despite harsh economic times, he said.

"We don't rely so much on international travellers like in Queenstown and Wanaka. All the doom and gloom hasn't had any effect on the rail trail and I would be very surprised if business owners were not happy with their season," he said.

Cycling was also deemed a cheaper holiday option for some people, which worked in the favour of rail trail businesses, he said.

Operators still faced issues, and were pressured by increasing demand in short bursts, he said.

Mr Grubb said a sub-committee of the operators group was investigating ways in which the rail trail season could be spread throughout the year, so business owners did not have to rely so much on profits made during March and April.

"We're trying to let people know the rail trail is not any better or worse outside of autumn - just different."


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