Bikes bring more money than wood from Rotorua forest

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Tauranga rider Kris Snow. Mountainbiking in the Whakarewarewa Forest near Rotorua is now bringing in more money than the wood produced from it. File photo Joel Ford.
Tauranga rider Kris Snow. Mountainbiking in the Whakarewarewa Forest near Rotorua is now bringing in more money than the wood produced from it. File photo Joel Ford.

The economic value of mountainbiking in Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest has been estimated at five times its annual timber revenue and looks set to increase as promotions raise awareness of what is on offer.

A study by Crown Research Institute Scion shows the median annual recreational value of mountainbikers using the forest is $10.2 million - well above the $4.6 million earned through export revenues.

Southstar Adventures' Jeff Carter said he was seeing more Australian visitors in the forest since transtasman flights started.

"We get lots of locals during the week then, at the weekends, we see people coming from Auckland, Hamilton, Taupo and Wellington."

As well as the Australians, Carter said there were also a few American groups coming through, with international and domestic tourists contributing to the local economy through accommodation, food and beverage outlets and other businesses and services they use while here.

"With the Kiwis, we will probably get them coming back two or three times a year, so you get more for your advertising dollar. With the overseas customers, it could be a long time between visits."

Mountainbiking is one of several key marketing strategies Rotorua Airport and the Central Park group are using to promote Air New Zealand's Rotorua-Sydney flights.

Business development manager Rhys Arrowsmith said a DVD, produced with Ride Rotorua, Events & Venues and Destination Rotorua Marketing, was distributed through Mountain Biking Australia magazine last year, reaching a huge audience.

"There has been a really strong influx of Australian mountain bikers on the transtasman flights. They have found out about Rotorua from a variety of sources, but they have all seen the video."

He said there were plans to create a bike assembly area at the airport, allowing riders to leave the box at the airport and ride straight to their accommodation or to the forest.

Another DVD will be produced in March for the August edition of Mountain Biking Australia, primarily focusing on the new cycle trails in the wider Central Park area - including Rotorua's Te Ara Ahi - Thermal by Bike, the Old Motu Coach Road in Gisborne/Opotiki and Taupo's Lake Track Cycle Trail.

Central Park is working closely with bike companies and shops across the Tasman, with one brand keen to do product launches in Rotorua and shops looking at offering free Rotorua flights to entice customers.

Mountain Bike Rotorua's Tu Mutu said the sector had done well out of the Rugby World Cup influx of visitors.

"Whakarewarewa Forest is developing quite a reputation among the international fraternity, which is great."

He pointed to the wide range of routes in the forest.

"There is great mountainbiking in other areas, but not as extensive as here.

"A lot of visitors see Rotorua as a mountainbiking Mecca."

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