Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Cyclists bring in big tourism dollars to north east

Benalla is more than car races and gliding and needs to do more to attract cyclists to the area.

LIBBY PRICE July 4, 2014 4:00am

Cyclists at the Tatong Hotel.

Benalla should be following the examples of Mansfield and Beechworth by welcoming cyclists to town to cash in on their largely unappreciated tourism dollars, a regional tourism agency says.

North East Tourism said despite the jokes about ‘mamils’ — middle-aged men in Lycra — the estimated value of cycle tourists was more than $26million per year.

That’s 9900 visitors spending an average of $250 with an overnight stay.

There are now nearly 400 ‘cycle friendly’ businesses around the north-east proudly bearing the sticker on the shop window which indicates the business does from as little as offering complimentary water to cyclists, to providing bike racks, basic repair kits and bike pumps, and even special cyclist packages.

The biggest attraction in the area is the Great Mountain Rail Trail from Mansfield to Tallarook, with 6500 riders taking the tough trip in December.

North East Tourism cycle development officer Stephen Plummer made a presentation to the Benalla Rural City Council last week, explaining the tourism value of several different types of cyclists.

‘‘The ‘soft cyclists’ should be the number one priority,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re family groups and good spenders and bring their own bikes. Benalla has everything they’re looking for with the lake ride, Winton Wetlands and for the ones that like dirty and dangerous, there’s Reef Hills.’’

The bike path from Benalla to the wetlands is under construction and due for completion in October.

‘‘While elite sport cyclists are not a priority, the ‘hard cyclist’ will come back again if they have a good experience,’’ Mr Plummer said.

‘‘They’ll spend up to $15000 on a bike and go out in groups for three to four hours, then stop for lunch, and ride for another several hours.’’

Then there are the non-cyclists who will give simple rides a go such as the Lake Benalla ride.

‘‘We need to offer them ‘Pedal 2 Produce’ packages including bike hire, lunches at a winery or cafe, and a bike map,’’ Mr Plummer said.

‘‘At Beechworth they even hire electric bikes for ‘soft cyclists’ who are a bit daunted by the hills; and in Bright they have a ‘bus-a-bike’ service if you don’t want to do the return journey.

‘‘We’re encouraging other towns like Benalla to offer a similar service. It’s not just about racing cars and gliders. It’s also about loving cyclists.’’

The plan was unanimously received by Benalla Rural City Council.

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