The Gold Coast has the opportunity to capitalise on a worldwide increase in the popularity of mountain biking and its rise amongst the list of adventure tourism pursuits, according to a Bond University professor.
Professor of Environmental Sciences and Management, Shelley Burgin, has undertaken research into mountain biking and said the prospects for the Gold Coast were significant.
"Between 2012-2013, approximately 1.3 million domestic overnight tourists, and more than 1 million day tourists, participated in cycling in Australia - a 33% increase on data collected in 2006," Professor Burgin said.
"Mountain biking originated in Marin County, California during the 1970s, and by 2013 the total retail bicycle business was estimated to generate more than $8 billion (AUD) in the US alone.
"In other countries such as Canada, New Zealand and the UK, participation in mountain biking continues to grow."
Professor Burgin said that here in Australia the market is also on the rise, and her research had revealed the potential for mountain biking to generate destination-based tourism nationally.
"Australia's unique landscape is perfect for mountain biking trails that could span mountain vistas, agricultural and bushland landscapes, river views, historic villages, or regional towns and wineries," she said.
"Strategic plans are already being developed for mountain biking in parts of Victoria and South Australia, with many trails associated with disused rail trails, such as the 'Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail' and the 'Riesling Trail'.
"The Gold Coast Hinterland already has a handful of mountain biking trails, one of which runs through the Nerang National Park, however further development is needed for the Gold Coast to take full advantage of this burgeoning tourism trend."
Professor Burgin said while there is evidence of a gradual broadening of appeal across gender and age, mountain biking remains dominated by young males who comprise 85 percent of people involved in the activity in Australia.
"Riders are generally well educated, with 39 percent in the AB social class, and in Australia 76 percent of riders were spread evenly across the 14 to 44 age group,” she said.
"It is popular in affluent, economically developed countries where Governments are keen to promote exercise and healthy lifestyle pursuits.
"The Gold Coast is the perfect location for an increase in mountain biking activity and adventure tourism with the national parks and hinterland providing hectares of open space in which cyclists can ride."
She said studies across several countries had shown that mountain bike riders’ preferred settings in which to ride are large, scenic, natural areas on single, unsealed trails with a variety of features that include steep slopes, short and long curves, jumps, rocks, and logs.
"The potential for the Gold Coast to tap into this growing adventure tourism activity is significant," she said.