As AWOL Tours takes a vested interest in tourism facilities in Cape Town, we commend Table Mountain National Parks for  the EMP proposal to expand the mountain biking trails on Table Mountain to meet the demand of a rapid growing interest group.

Minister Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities has identified cycling as the Western Cape’s key economic growth drawcard to grow tourism in the province. The Western Cape is fast becoming known as the mountain biking mecca in the world just as Hawaii is to surfing. Till now, as the trail network in Cape Town is very limited, most leisure and professional mountain bikers head out to the Winelands region as these trails are more developed . With the proposed expansion to the network of mountain biking trails, Table Mountain could become the jewel of the mountain biking in the Western Cape.

The lack of mountain biking trail infrastructure on Table Mountain, especially since Tokai Forest has been closed since March 2015 has come at a huge financial cost not only to SANParks but the private sector as well. We have lost much potential tourism business due to the limited riding options on Table Mountain. Instead we have been driving clients out to the Winelands as this presents much better trail riding options. This has increased our transport expenses. But as one hotelier recently pointed out; most mountain biking visitors to the Cape head straight out to stay in outlying towns to ride in the Winelands. The local mountain biking community has also found better value for money joining the Tygerberg mountain biking club or Oak Valley in Elgin. Even the Cape Epic mountain biking stage race this year opted not to include Table Mountain. This I’m sure has meant a loss in revenue for TMNP mountain biking activity permits.

Opening up the proposed trails on Table Mountain would be a huge boost to our niche tourism operating business revenue in Cape Town. As our offices and bicycles are located at the V&A Waterfront, we could potentially offer mountain biking tours to visitors with very little tar riding (without even having to transport guests in vehicles) up Pats Track, around Lions Head, along the Table Mountain trails to Deer Park. We could also expand our tour offering to International visitors, if we could have continuous trails from the City to Cape Point. This would then enable us to sell multi day trips using the Hoerikwaggo overnight huts to mountain bikers as well as hikers.

We see a growing trend amongst local and international cyclists where mountain biking is becoming more popular than road riding as safety is compromised by cycling on the roads.

Increased number of trails on the mountain for mountain bikers would increase the number of users out and about who would act as eyes and ears on the ground, increasing the safety of all other users such as trail runners, hikers and dog walkers. For instance I have been thanked by a dog walker in the Constantia greenbelt for being around as she was beginning to feel nervous walking on her own.

Contrary to popular belief, most mountain bikers also tend to be environmentally responsible and conscious minded people who would have a vested interest in assisting to protect the biodiversity of fauna and flora on Table Mountain. User groups could assist in volunteering to remove alien vegetation and trail maintenance. With proper investment in building and maintaining single track trails, the amount of erosion and deterioration of the landscape could be limited.

Mountain bikers tend to be amongst the higher income earners and would be prepared to pay for improved infrastructure such as single track trails rather than just jeep tracks.

We look forward to seeing an improved and more expansive mountain biking trail network on Table Mountain in Cape Town to assist in growing the tourism service to a growing number of active visitors to our city.