The Otago Central Rail Trail (OCRT) has established itself as one of the major
attractions for Central Otago, and along with summer fruit and Pinot Noir is one of
The Otago Central Rail Trail (OCRT) has established itself as one of the major attractions for Central Otago, and along with summer fruit and Pinot Noir is one of the first things that people think about when asked about the district. However, it is a fairly new phenomenon, and there is a general lack of hard information about the trail, both in terms of the benefits it brings to the district as well as the nature of people who come to ride or walk the trail and what their expectations, wants and experiences are.
A series of three user surveys were conduction on the Otago Central Rail Trail during the season of 2008 / 2009. In association with other studies being undertaken by the OCRT Trust it is intended that this research will provide some much needed quantitative and qualitative data that can be used to better match the needs of people doing the trail and those who provide the services they want and need. It will also assist in targeting the OCRT to the appropriate people and ensuring that the promotional efforts of Tourism Central Otago and other groups are to the best effect.
It might be argued that many of the outcomes from this research just confirm what was already known. However, the point is that real data will always be a better basis for decision making than assumptions.
Finally, in line with the intentions of the District’s destination management approach to tourism, this research considers the current and potential offerings of the area, and that to grow the Rail Trail we need to consider the entire offering and experience of people. While for some people who come to Central Otago the OCRT may be all they need, for many people there is a desire to experience other things the area has to offer.
The major findings of the 2008 / 09 Otago Central Rail Trail Visitor survey are:
1. The OCRT is very much enjoyed and appreciated by the large numbers of people who walk or bike it. The surveyed Rail Trailers rated the overall experience 9 out
2. This degree of enjoyment is not influenced by the time of the year, the direction of
travel, the time spent on the trail, the age of the Rail Trailers or where they come
3. Just as importantly, the prior expectations of people doing the Rail Trail were also
being met and exceeded.
4. Age is the most important determinant of behaviour. Other factors such as
expenditure, time on the Rail Trail etc... are generally best explained in terms of
the age of the visitor. The exception is how people first hear about the Rail Trail.
5. People come from a large number of places to Central Otago to travel the OCRT.
As a generalisation, the typical Rail Trailer is a person aged over 50, slightly more
likely to be a woman than a man, from Auckland, Canterbury or somewhere else
in the North Island. They are doing the Rail Trail for the first time, probably from
the Clyde end, and are especially interested in the historic mining towns and sites.
6. They also went curling and either started or finished by taking the Taieri Gorge
7. This older person will spend more time on the Rail Trail than a younger visitor
and will spend more money, both overall and on a daily basis.
8. This expenditure is mainly on package operator expenses, food and
accommodation. Relatively little is spent on retail or entertainment.
9. While South Islanders are more likely to claim that they had always known about
the Rail Trail, North Islanders have found out about it by word of mouth and
international visitors through guidebooks or magazine articles. Overall, word of
mouth is the main way that people find out about the OCRT.
10. Once having discovered the OCRT, people were then most likely to go to the
internet to find out more. Interestingly, the more mature people were more likely
to use this than the youngest group; who in turn were most likely to visit an i-Site.
Many people also turned their cares over to package operators to provide them
with the information they needed to undertake the journey.
11. On average, visitors to the OCRT spend just under 4 nights in Central Otago.
This ranges from less than 3 nights for people aged under 30 to almost 5 nights for
the over 50’s.
12. People generally do not extend their stay in Central Otago to do other things
around their time on the OCRT. They do, however, take part in a number of
activities while on the Trail.
13. While it is advertised, the lack of available water is considered the worst part of
the Rail Trail experience. While there were many comments about the surface
these did not translate so strongly into a poor rating.
14. The lack and quality of food outlets was also commented on. The lack of healthy
food options was mentioned often.
15. The average Rail Trailer spends $472 while in Central Otago. This means that the
OCRT is directly responsible for $4.7M of expenditure into the Central Otago
economy per annum.
16. In addition, it contributes $2.3M to GDP and 60 full time equivalent positions.
17. If upstream and downstream factors are added, the total value to the Central Otago
economy of the OCRT is $7.2M per annum, $3.6M to GDP and 75 full time
18. This is estimated to be between 0.5% and 1% of the total Central Otago economy.