Ian Balme, whose Forgotten World Adventures takes tourists in golf carts along a disused railway between Taumarunui and Stratford in Taranaki, stopping in the one-pub town of Whangamomona, is preparing for huge growth.
"In the midst of all the doom and gloom, we are are feeling gung ho," Balme said.
The company, which has twice won NZ Tourism's People's Choice Award, has closed until early October because of the level 4 Covid-19 lockdown.
But Balme hasn't been idle. He has applied for the Government's wage subsidy scheme and kept his staff on in preparation for an expected rush of business. He's even wants to build a new cycleway. "People will still want to holiday in New Zealand. Everyone gets four weeks holiday a year and no one will want to hop in a plane or even cross Cook Strait," he said.
The tourist operator is seeking money from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for a feasibility study into developing a cycle trail along the rail corridor.
The study would cost $92,269.29, to be funded by $77,269.29 from the PGF, with $10,000 from the Ruapehu District Council and $5000 from Stratford District Council.
"We can see the benefits the Otago Rail Trail brought to that whole region, and the benefits to the central north island would be significantly greater than that," he said.
Unlike most planned cycleways where multiple land owners were involved, this project would have just one, Kiwirail.
"If the go button was pushed we could do it within a year, imagine the benefits that would flow from that."
It would complement other Government investments in Taranaki, including the Poukai and Taranaki Crossing projects and the sealing and upgrading work on SH43, Balme said.
Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke said he welcomed Balme's cycleway plan.
"It's a big undertaking but if it gets off the ground I'm sure it would be a game-changer in terms of visitor numbers to this area. It's an exciting proposal whichever way you look at it."
"If the cycleway was created all the way from Taumarunui to Stratford, the employment opportunities and commercial opportunities along the route in terms of accommodation, food and fuel, all the things tourists rely on, would potentially be massive."
Whangamomona Hotel publican Richard Pratt said the proposed cycleway would be "stunning".
"It would revitalise the area for any number of households and farming groups and businesses, it would be huge."
In a statement, Venture Taranaki chief executive Justine Gilliland said attracting visitors from around New Zealand will be key to getting the region's tourism and hospitality industries back on their feet.
"It remains unknown how quickly travel restrictions will be lifted and perceptions of safety will rebound allowing international spend to climb again," she said.
"We think Taranaki is in a good position to take advantage of an upsurge in interest, building on our existing strength as a domestic destination."