Matthew Theunissen is a business reporter

Crankworx promises big economic boost

Thomas Genon throws a tailwhip going to the hut at Crankworx Rotorua last year. Organisers hope the mountain biking fextival will crack the $10 million mark this year. Photo / Clint Trahan
Thomas Genon throws a tailwhip going to the hut at Crankworx Rotorua last year. Organisers hope the mountain biking fextival will crack the $10 million mark this year. Photo / Clint Trahan

Organisers of the upcoming Crankworx mountain biking festival hope it will crack the $10 million mark for money injected into the country's economy.

The festival comes amid a burgeoning market for cycling tourists, who according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spent $817m last year.

Crankworx, which begins in Rotorua on Friday before heading to France, Austria, and Canada, is the world's largest mountain bike festival and last year attracted 1300 international visitors. That is expected to rise to 1700 this year and 2000 by 2021.

Event director Tak Mutu said a total of 8200 people attended the 2015 event, and 15,000 last year.

With the event now extended to nine days instead of five with a raft of new events, Mutu expected this number to increase by an even greater margin.

"It was estimated that $8m was injected into the economy over the five day event last year. I would hope to easily crack the $10m mark for the direct impact from the event this time around."

Mutu said Rotorua, along with Nelson and Queenstown, was attracting a great deal of attention from the mountain biking world.

"There's just not many places like Rotorua where you can be in a major centre -- a full-service city -- and then drive five minutes down the road and hit 180km of purpose-built mountain bike trails. You just don't find that anywhere else."

Rotorua's mix of pumice and clay also made the trails usable all year around -- and made for a relatively soft landing for crashing bikers.

"Another reason we're so popular here is we're off season for most of the world so they can head down here in their winter to go riding. It's one of the reasons why Crankworx has benefited so much because it's become a place where people can come to train in the off-season. And then we're the first major event on the calendar."

Last year's event had an estimated broadcast viewership of 4.7m -- a 146 per cent increase on 2015. The top five countries viewing the event were the United States (21 per cent), Canada (11 per cent), Germany (8 per cent), the United Kingdom (6 per cent) and New Zealand (6 per cent).

Those sorts of figures mean a great deal of exposure for New Zealand as a biking destination, Mutu said.

"We do know that cycling tourists are high value, it's one of the big reasons why there's such a big push for cycle ways and mountain bike trails here in New Zealand -- they are worth exponentially more."

Tourism New Zealand general manager of corporate affairs Deborah Gray said the average cycling tourist coming to New Zealand spent an average of $4800 versus $3800 for other holiday makers.

"The benefit with these guys is they are more inclined to come in our off season or our shoulder seasons ... probably because the weather is a bit cooler for a cycle holiday," she said.

"They also tend to visit the regions because cycle trails obviously are dotted all around the country so they are really a valuable visitor for that reason."

The highest number of cycling tourists were from Australia, followed by the USA, UK and Germany.

The New Zealand Cycle Trail, launched in 2009, formed the cornerstone of Tourism New Zealand's cycling campaigns overseas with more than a million people a year utilising the 22 Great Rides.

The Lycra Economy
• Cycling tourists spend on average $4800 here versus $3800 for other tourists
• In 2016, 171,000 holiday visitors said they had participated in cycling, up from 125,000 in 2014
• The estimated value from visitors who participated in cycling last year was $817m.
• Over a million people a year use the 22 Great Rides on the New Zealand Cycle Trail
Source: Tourism New Zealand

- NZ Herald

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