Despite two years of pandemic restrictions and several floods, usage of the South Burnett Rail Trail has continued to increase and according to research, it now generates between $600,000 and $1 million each year (Photo: SBRTUA)

May 24, 2022

A little more than four years after it opened, the South Burnett Rail Trail is now generating between $600,000 and $1 million a year in tourism dollars for the region.

Data on the trail’s usage and projected revenue were delivered at the South Burnett Regional Council’s May Finance standing committee meeting.

They were prepared by the South Burnett Rail Trail Users Association (SBRTUA), a not-for-profit community group set up to promote and develop the trail.

Secretary Jason Wyeth and management committee member Michelle Hansen told the meeting the group has been collecting data on the rail trail’s usage for more than two years, using automated counters set up at four locations along the trail between Kingaroy and Murgon.

Volunteers from the group have also been counting the number of campers using freestay parks at Wooroolin and Wondai each day for the past two years.

Together, these counts have provided insights into how many tourists and locals are using the trail; how many are using the region’s freestay camping areas; and the annual pattern of rail trail tourism across the region.

The revenue projections have come from an economic study of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) jointly conducted by Somerset Regional Council and the University of Queensland’s Business School which was released last year.

That study found that BVRT day trippers spent an average $120 per day, while overnight visitors spent an average $180 per day.

The study also found that 82 per cent of BVRT visitors come from outside the Somerset region, and 62 per cent stayed one or two nights.

Combining this revenue data with local counter data, the SBRTUA said it conservatively estimated the South Burnett Rail Trail now generates $600,000 to $1 million a year.

They noted this was very close to the $1.2 million annual revenue that was forecast when the Rail Trail’s feasibility study was carried out in March 2016.

This has come about without any extensive publicity or promotion of the trail.

But properly promoted and developed, the SBRTUA believes the trail could generate double to triple this revenue within the next few years, providing a much-needed economic boost for many small businesses in Rail Trail towns.

To help do this, the group has developed six “loop trails” in conjunction with Council over the past year.

These signposted paths take rail trail users on tours off the rail trail through various parts of region, and are designed to help keep rail trail tourists in the region for a longer time.

The group has also joined forces with the South Burnett Mountain Bike Club (SBMBC) to direct trail users to mountain bike adventure tracks the SBMBC has developed in the McEuen State Forest area near Wondai, and at Gordonbrook Dam.

And in Nanango, the Nanango Cycling group, in conjunction with Council and Heritage Bank Nanango, have created a Link Trail that connects the BVRT trailhead at Yarraman with Kingaroy, as well as two extra loop trails around the Nanango district.

Michelle Hansen told the meeting another measure of the Rail Trail’s popularity was the growing number of annual cycling and running events that now make use of it.

These included the Wondai Country Running Festival; the South Burnett Express Relay; Wondai parkrun; the Mother’s Day Classic; Taste The Trail; the Rashers Run; and school cross-country events.

She said the trail also opened up opportunities for new businesses based on the trail such as guided bike tours, shuttle services and bike hire, all of which have sprung up on the BVRT over the past 10 years.

There was also a great opportunity to extend the trail from Kilkivan to Gympie and upgrade the Kingaroy to Yarraman section to create a 300km trail that would be the longest in Australia.

This trail would be accessible from either Gympie or Ipswich, and would allow cyclists from the Brisbane, Ipswich or Sunshine Coasts areas to embark on a multi-day adventure along the trail, then catch a train home at the end of it.

To build this new Queensland tourist attraction, she suggested Council set up joint advisory group between the South Burnett, Gympie, Toowoomba and Somerset councils to develop it as a future joint project.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mayor Brett Otto thanked the SBRTUA for their work and for supplying the data they had collected to Council.

The Rail Trail is popular with both locals and tourists, and there are now about half a dozen annual events based around it which have been drawing steadily growing numbers of participants (Photo: SBRTUA)

Disclosure: CEO Dafyd Martindale is president of the SBRTUA

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