Otago Central Rail Trail economic impact and trends survey 2008


How to cite this study

Jellum, C. and Reis, A. 2009. Otago Central Rail Trail Economic Impact and Trends Survey 2008. Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand: Otago Central Rail Trail Trust.


This study assesses the results from a 2008 survey administered to businesses located near the Otago Central Rail Trail (OCRT) in New Zealand and compares results to a 2005 survey. Data was collected on types of businesses, annual revenue, and business perceptions of the trail. On the OCRT, cyclists were reported to be the most frequent users of businesses. The three most popular suggestions for trail improvement were more activities to encourage a wider spread of times to use the trail, more information panels pointing out areas of interest, and greater use of the trail as an educational resource.


This study is relevant to leaders interested in assessing business owners’ perceptions of nearby trails and how trail users impact their businesses. In the study, the survey design includes open and closed-ended questions, both of which are useful in determining suggestions to improve the trail, determining peak season, and revealing other perspectives. The survey encountered several limitations arising from survey length and design that could be addressed in future surveys.


The OTCR is located in southern New Zealand, spanning from Clyde to Middlemarch. 

Trail Type

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a 150-km, non motorized recreational rail trail, spanning from Clyde to Middlemarch in southern New Zealand.


The Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust acts as an independent body that receives and administers funds to improve the OCRT. In 2005, the Trust surveyed business owners on the fringes of the trail about their perspectives of service providers and how their needs could be met through various investment approaches. The purpose of the 2008 study was to repeat the process to further learn about the successes and challenges of businesses affected by the OCRT. 

The authors were independently contracted by the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust. Both were Ph.D. candidates employed as Assistant Research Fellows in the Centre for Recreation Research, School of Business, University of Otago.


  • In the 2008 survey, the majority (68.8%) of respondents were Accommodation Providers, 22% were Food and Beverage, 14.7% Retail, 10.1% Tour Operators, 7.3% Transport Providers, and 3.7% were other types of businesses. These results were similar to the 2005 survey results, but the 2005 results represented a smaller proportion of Accommodation Providers (49%), and Food and Beverage (10.6%). 
  • 32.6% of the sample were large businesses with gross annual revenue of more than $250,000, 29.5% were small businesses with gross annual revenue less than $10,000, the rest of the sample indicated business revenues between $10,000 and $250,000. All dollars are in New Zealand dollars. 
  • In the multiple-choice activity-type question, 98.9% of respondents indicated that cyclists are frequent users of their businesses, 11.2% of respondents indicated that walking visitors of the OCRT are frequent customers, and 9.0% indicated that business customers participate in other types of activities.
  • 29.7% of the respondents indicated that the OCRT was very important in their decision to buy or start their business. In contrast, 19.8% reported that the rail trail was not at all important in their decision to start their business. However, the sample did include prominent supermarkets and petrol station chains, which may not be significantly influenced by the rail trail. 
  • Though 87.5% of respondents were supportive of competitive events on the OCRT, only 21.8% claimed that events held on or near the trail were beneficial to their businesses, while most respondents (40.2%) were unsure about the benefits. 
  • The top five suggested improvements for the OCRT were: more activities to encourage better spread of times (seasons) to use the trail, more information panels pointing out areas of interest, greater use of the trail as an educational resource, more on-trail toilets, and more shade trees. These findings closely align with those of the 2005 study. 


The survey included six categories of questions, closely based on the 2005 survey. The categories were: Business Characteristics and Structure, OCRT Impact on your Business, OCRT Impact on your Community, Improvements to the Current Scenario, Identification, and Accommodation Businesses only. There were also several open questions added. Both online questionnaires through email and hardcopy questionnaires through the mail were used. The businesses selected were on a list compiled in 2005 by the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust which had potential interest in the trail due to the services they offered. Questionnaires were distributed from July 7-August 8, 2008. 109 usable responses were received. Excel and SPSS were used for data entry and analysis.

Added to library on November 21, 2023