1 Sep 2016

Christchurch tourism poised for rebound from quakes

8:28 pm on 1 September 2016

Five years after the Canterbury earthquakes, Christchurch's tourism sector is showing strong signs of rebounding, but tourist operators and leaders say there is still work to do.

After several difficult years for operators in the city, there are positive signs of a recovery - Christchurch now has a 7.8 percent market share in New Zealand of visitor spend, catching up on the pre-quake share of 9.2 percent.

The garden city also has the second highest visitor spend in the country, behind Auckland, but ahead of Wellington and Queenstown.

Visitors spent nearly $2 billion in the city in the year to July - similar to pre-earthquake spending - and Christchurch had a 9 percent growth in visitor spend in July, compared to 4 percent nationally.

There was still much to do but there was another vote of confidence today, with Hilton opening a new hotel, following a $13 million refit of Chateau on the Park.

Hotel general manager David Wain said there was a lot of optimism about Christchurch's ability to rebound in the tourism market.

"Hilton has confidence that Christchurch is a destination city. We'll continue to work with Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism and look at how we can really drive that business and make people want to come back to Christchurch.''

Mr Wain said there was a growing international market for visitors to Christchurch.

"Japan is still a really good source market for us, but the Chinese market is definitely picking up as well. But neither of those numbers are near enough large as what we see in the New Zealand domestic business.''

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Vic Allen said the city had made good progress in the past year but there was still more to be done.

He said visitor feedback showed the shortage of retail in the city was having an impact on their experience.

"They're also very interested in shopping, especially downtown shopping, those quirky interesting shops. That's what we're missing. That's under construction now and what we expect is by the end of next summer that we'll be on track to provide that level of service for visitors.''

Mr Allen said there had been a fundamental shift in the demographic of visitors coming to Christchurch since the earthquakes.

"The Australian market is certainly greatly reduced and I think that's because Australians, being our near neighbours, know exactly what's happening here and they prefer to wait until the city rebuild is more developed until they come back, but they've been replaced by the China market.''

Graeme Abbot has been the general manager of Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa for 16 years, and said, while the majority of the town's market was domestic, there was a noticeable fall off overseas visitors after the quakes.

"Christchurch has always been a gateway destination airport. They spend time in and around the attractions of Christchurch and do day trips up to us or come in overnight. To have the identity of Christchurch up and functioning definitely impacts on the rest of the regions."

He said the initiatives shown by Christchurch Airport, which had secured overseas airlines coming to the city, had been important and he hoped more planeloads of tourists landed.

"The faster Christchurch rebuilds its centre, and certainly more hotels, is good for the region as a whole and certainly the outlying regions because it will attract more people."

There was more good news for tourism operators today, with the launch of ticket sales for the annual Cup and Show Week, held in November.

It was the biggest event of the year for Christchurch, with thousands of people from around the country expected to attend race meetings and the A&P Show.

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