Likely Economic Impact of the Rail Trail

 Employment and jobs

The Northern Rivers needs a substantial growth in new business. An RDA Committee Northern Rivers report indicated that we have to create 59,250 new jobs by 2027 (RIEP 2009 Page 30) of which 16,000 need to be “export jobs”, i.e. income from outside of the region, just to remain stable.

In reality without new business development this is unlikely to happen and the region will go backwards in employment and prosperity. All the things we live here for, environment, community, safety, health, and similar depend in different ways on us having jobs and income to the region.

Government reports show that the growth industries in the Northern Rivers are virtually all paid for by Government: Education, Health and Services. We need innovation that will support new entrepreneurial activities. It needs to be genuinely commercial to bring in real dollars to create sustainable jobs. As such a little support from Government can have a substantial multiplying effect.

 Impact of the rail trail

The impact of the rail trail will be both to help existing and encourage new businesses. Seasonal and casual employment will increase as well as new business ownership. The benefit of a rail trail is that businesses develop as popularity increases, thus reducing risk. It does not all have to be there at the start.

We anticipate as a first analysis that between 800 to 1200 jobs could be eventually created.

We have a large group of business mentors available (60+) who can also assist new ventures.

Key impacts include:

Existing Businesses gain from the Rail Trail:

Example: There are approximately 200 traditional tourism businesses (i.e. not tangential tourism business such as pharmacies and service stations) in Bangalow, Byron and Mullumbimby alone. There exist 20 or so food, accommodation and attraction businesses along or close to the Bangalow to Mullumbimby route that are not in villages. All these businesses stand to gain immediately from the rail trail depending on where it starts.

Accommodation Businesses:

Accommodation and also services such as rail trail tours – where they take your luggage between accommodations, will benefit and grow. Some accommodation will expand into café and al fresco spots for a drink as walkers and cyclists relax in the late afternoon for example.

Example: In some rail trail areas the average stay has increased from 2 days to 4 or 5 days. Also it is anticipated that the average spend of the users of rail trails who join a tour is considerably more than the current average of the area, possibly two to four times higher. While these figures are anecdotal they are based on considerable knowledge of this area and other rail trails. They serve to provide a guide as to what research will be needed

New Services:

Bike tour operators Walk tour operators Rail memorabilia outlets such as museum, gifts, etc Cycle services such as bike sales, rentals, repairs and gear

Examples: Conducted tours (1 to 3 days – where a guide travels with the group to articulate and interpret the experience) Escorted tours (2 to 6 days – where a company rents the bikes and gear and transports the group’s luggage from accommodation to accommodation)

A range of flow on business development occurs such as:

Printed guides and interpretative brochures and maps;  An App for use on various digital devices to guide tourists;  An App for experiences along the route including the history, views, ecological, cultural and landscapes;  QRs for key points of interest; Web portal Interpretative and directional signage. Along the route food outlets (cafes, restaurants, markets, food producers – e.g. cheese maker), accommodation (B&B, farm stay, guest lodges, rural cabins, pubs, motels, luxury tents and camping grounds) could be sign posted and supported with digital collateral

Business Networks and Conceptual links; Heritage places and history; Local food outlets, cafes, markets and growers Industries such as food, agriculture, timber and rail itself; meet a farmer; Wellbeing, alternative health, spiritual health experiences; Music and the arts; Biodiversity and other aspects of the natural estate

As this all develops we plan to use this in the “brand positioning” of the region to appeal to Australia wide and global potential visitors.

The potential for this to impact unemployment and jobs in the region is huge.