Prioritising the charity side of a biking holiday business during the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to $50,000 worth of new bikes and helmets being donated to five schools in Lower Hutt, Porirua and South Auckland.
New Zealand company RIDE Holidays, which organises bike rides around the world and helps fund bikes for primary schools, has been unexpectedly blessed by its clients whose travel plans have been affected by Covid-19.
Many of their clients donated their deposit refunds to the kids’ bikes appeal while others have gone on bike rides to raise funds.
As Covid-19 spread RIDE Holidays cancelled its European and North American tours although it has been able to create more rides based in New Zealand and Australia.
Making charity a priority
Cancellations left owner Karl Woolcott, now based in Auckland, with time on his hands so “I started to look at the charity side of things as being a priority”.
“For 2020 we will roll out five schools which is a record for us. One in South Auckland, two in Porirua and two in Lower Hutt.”
The schools are Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Ara Whanui School in Alicetown and Avalon Primary School (Lower Hutt), Natone Park School and Cannons Creek School (Porirua) and Bairds Mainfreight School (Ōtara, South Auckland).
The first RIDE Holidays bikes were given to six Lower Hutt schools in 2018 and 2019 through a partnership with Hutt charity TAKA Trust.
The bikes are the schools’ to keep and don’t go home with the students. They stay at the school and are used for PE and at lunch time.
$50k worth of new bikes
“In total there will be approximately 150 brand new bikes and helmets at a cost of over $50,000,” Karl says.
Fundraising for the two Porirua schools is via USO Bike (owned by friends of Karl) and www.climbingforcharity.co.nz.
Karl says there have been many different fundraising ventures. Many of their clients have asked for deposits on their cancelled tours to be donated to kids’ bikes. Rides through www.climbingforcharity.co.nz have raised well over $20,000.
They designed merino jerseys and sold them to clients with the profits going to kids’ bikes. They are also running several charity weekends where everyone rides their bikes and then clients donate towards the cause.
I’d say at the moment I’m spending 15 to 20 hours a week purely on our kids’ bike charity and for me that has been really, really rewarding,” Karl says.
Until Covid-19, RIDE Holidays also matched dollar for dollar donations made by clients to the bike project.
Overseas tours cancelled by Covid-19
Karl first became aware of Covid-19 in January.
“We were on tour in Adelaide and they had a couple of early cases. My initial concern was for our March, April and May tours in Europe. We cancelled our end of March tour with only seven days’ notice.
“It was heart-breaking but certainly the right call given what transpired. March for me was the most stressful month as it was solely on our shoulders to make the right decisions. Once the borders closed then all decisions were made for us.”
One hundred per cent of their 2020 and 2021 European and North American tours have been cancelled or postponed until 2022.
“We have also had to cancel a few Australian tours which were designed around what we thought was a good chance of having a NZ-Oz bubble. Overall we’ve had to cancel approximately 30 tours. The majority were sold out.”
Karl says some hotel and event deposits have been returned or credits provided while others have no funds to repay.
His business has been left exposed by tens of thousands of dollars.
Wage subsidy appreciated
“Despite what this pandemic has done to my business I wouldn’t change anything that the government has done. Yes, there has been learning, however, one has to remember that this is the first time the majority of us have been through a pandemic.
“The wage subsidy was really good and incredibly quick. The actual dollar amount is really just enough to pay our fixed costs. However, it is very much appreciated.”
Karl says RIDE Holidays is now planning extra New Zealand and Australian tours.
“In December we are venturing up to Northland for the first time and in February and March we head south to Queenstown, Wanaka and Te Anau. We’ll also run a few trips to the likes of Great Barrier Island, Timber Trail etc.
“So yes – we will keep busy but it really is like treading water until we can travel overseas again. There are a couple of problems with New Zealand trips.
“Firstly, New Zealand is just as expensive as Europe and North America yet it’s a lot harder selling a $5000 tour in New Zealand than it is in, say, Italy.
“Secondly, there’s a lot more red tape here,” Karl says.
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