Te Ara Ahi [bike trail] takes in 74km of scenic forest, countryside and geothermal features between Rotorua and Orakei Korako.
Rotorua is fast becoming the tourism and mountain biking hub of New Zealand. This is important because the tourism sector plays a vital role in supporting and boosting not only the local economy but also in New Zealand's overall economic performance.
It's great that this is being recognised by way of huge investment from the Government in developing local attractions like the $2.5 million Te Ara Ahi "Go Thermal by Bike" mountain bike and cycle trail.
Having only opened late last year, the trail is already gaining national and international attention, putting Rotorua on the map as the mountain biking mecca of New Zealand.
Individually, our city's geothermal sites and mountain biking trails are a draw card but this trail combines the two, making it a unique attraction quite possibly not seen anywhere else in the world. Te Ara Ahi takes in 74km of scenic forest, countryside and geothermal features between Rotorua and Orakei Korako, incorporating some of the world's most unique geothermal areas, outstanding landscapes, pristine lakes and exotic forests.
It offers an accessible single or multi-day experience that appeals to touring cyclists and cycling holidaymakers as well as offering an alternative experience for mountain bikers, both locals and visitors.
It links four established geothermal attractions - Te Puia, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and Orakei Korako.
These areas are a must-see for many visitors to New Zealand and for the domestic visitor market and we're seeing tourists come here from places as far away as Australia specifically to bike this trail.
With the Sydney-Rotorua direct flights now running twice a week, it's a lot easier for visitors to pop over the ditch for a short break.
I've been told 1500 domestic tourists biked Te Ara Ahi within the first month of it opening and these numbers will only continue to increase as word spreads and its popularity grows.
Importantly, the positive promotion surrounding this trail will have a flow-on effect for other local tourist attractions, hotels, motels and retailers with the expectation that most people who want to ride the trail will make a weekend out of it. Last week an extremely positive story on the trail featured on TV1's Breakfast show. Better still, it's available online and therefore accessible to people living around the world. If you didn't catch it on Monday, you can find it at http://tvnz.co.nz/video or visit my Facebook page and click on the link.
I was happy to be a part of the segment which also featured president of the Rotorua Mountain Biking Club Gregg Brown and Rotorua District Councillor Dave Donaldson. Thanks to both of you for doing such a fantastic job promoting Rotorua.
Rotorua is at the heart of tourism in the Bay of Plenty. Our small tourism businesses make up a significant component of the overall sector in New Zealand.
The experience that they give tourists is integral to their overall experience of New Zealand, and how much they then invest into our economies while they're here.
Te Ara Ahi is one more thing that makes our city a stand-out visitor destination.
It is unique attractions like this that are driving the local economy and putting Rotorua on the map as the place to visit.