Chair Archive

Chair’s Report

October, 2009

Chair: Tom Ortmeyer


I have recently returned from a two-month fellowship at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. New Zealand is an interesting place for a lot of different reasons — geologically, biologically, and touristologically (if that is a word). I was on the south island, where tourism and agriculture are the primary economic drivers. I did some tramping on the Banks Peninsula, and took several trips to the Southern Alps.

Inevitably, there were comparisons between what I saw there and what we have here in the north country where agriculture and tourism are also significant components of our economy. One interesting part of South Island tourism is the multi-day tramps that are featured in many places across the island. The top-end tramps are fully guided and provisioned, and in some cases these guided trips have exclusive rights to the paths. There seems to be a good demand for these in season.

I was also interested in the prevalence of backpackers’ accommodations — low-cost lodging and transportation that appeal to a different group than the guided tramps. I ran into quite a number of tourists traveling from place to place on buses or trains, staying at these places — and who seemed largely to be sightseeing rather than hiking or skiing.

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a relatively new attraction that has generated quite a bit of activity — surprising many. The rail trail is around 100 miles long, and attracts both bicyclists and hikers. It currently hosts around 10,000 long distance users per year and many more who enjoy segments of the trail. I wonder if a similar rail trail in the northern Adirondacks/St. Lawrence Valley would attract similar interest.