The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is taking a "big step forward" next month, with the official opening of the Aoraki/Mt Cook to Omarama sections.
On February 16, there will be a soft launch for the Aoraki/Mt Cook to Omarama sections, while the fully completed trail of more than 300km is expected to be finished later this year.
The public are invited to take part in the event on February 16, starting at Mount Cook Village at 9am for ribbon cutting and kick-off.
The next day, there will be a 10am start at Lake Ohau Lodge, finishing at the Countrytime Hotel in Omarama at 3pm.
Newly appointed A2O marketing and sales officer Jason Menard said he was excited to see the trail being used to promote the great region to the rest of the world.
A2O joint committee chairman Mike Neilson said the trail was a top priority for Mackenzie and Waitaki tourism, as a driver for economic development to the area.
In the first full year of operation, ending June 2014, it is projected that 7000 cyclists will have used the trail.
After five years, that number is expected to reach 20,000 - in line with the number of cycle visitors that the Central Otago Rail Trail currently enjoys.
Mr Neilson said the track, although not officially finished, was already attracting good numbers of tourists.
Mr Menard said, in a perfect world, it would have been great to hold back and open the whole trail at once, not just the one section, but it was impossible to hold back the flood of people interested in riding the trail right now.
"People are interested, people want to ride it, we're already seeing so many cyclists," he said.
Huge interest in Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail
It's a great way to get a real slice of New Zealand in a short time.Jason Menard, Alps 2 Ocean"It's already begun, people are keen to do it."
The February 16 event was a "big step forward" and it was certainly expected to bring people to the region.
Mr Menard said for international visitors, who only had a short time in New Zealand, the trail offered a snapshot of the country.
"You're going from alpine, with snow covered hills, down to golden tussocked landscapes. The sheer brilliance of some of those turquoise lakes, native beech forest, going down through farmland, the limestone cliffs, the clay cliffs, the Maori rock art. Then finishing up at the Oamaru Blue Penguin colony, coming through the Victorian, steampunk thing," he said.
"It's a great way to get a real slice of New Zealand in a short time."
Mr Menard said he had received positive comments about the trail, especially about the scenery, even though it was not fully completed.
"The scenery is 100 per cent done, and that only took a few million years," he said.
On Sunday, February 17, members of the public could ride a portion, or ride the whole trip from Mt Cook to Omarama.
"That's a good day for families. No one has ridden from Lake Ohau and come out at Omarama, that's all new trail," he said.
As for the rest of the trail, work was progressing well, Mr Neilson said.
"It's a big trail, but we're moving along nicely," he said.
"We're all on schedule."
More details on the opening event and trail updates are on the official Alps 2 Ocean website, which is at - www.alps2ocean.com.