Christchurch's struggling tourism industry calls for action

By Jarrod Booker

In the year ended February 2012, Christchurch lost over one million guest nights - a third of its visitors staying overnight in the city. Photo / Geoff Sloan.
In the year ended February 2012, Christchurch lost over one million guest nights - a third of its visitors staying overnight in the city. Photo / Geoff Sloan.

Christchurch urgently needs new accommodation and a central city entertainment zone, tourism advocates say, after earthquakes slashed visitor numbers to the city.

In the year ended February 2012, Christchurch lost over one million guest nights - a third of its visitors staying overnight in the city. International visitor guest nights fell by a whopping 73 per cent.

Before the destructive earthquake sequence began in September 2010, tourism contributed $2.3 billion a year to Canterbury's economy. It has shrunk by at least 15 per cent.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden is urging authorities to act on temporary projects to boost the industry in Christchurch ahead of the release of the State of the Tourism Sector 2012 report with Lincoln University tomorrow.

Mr Snedden said the immediate need was for a central city restaurant and entertainment zone to complement the Re:START Mall in central Christchurch.

"The mall has been highly successful at providing a central city focus, but offering both international and domestic visitors a temporary restaurant and entertainment zone would give them a reason to stay in Christchurch and spend more while they are there," Mr Snedden said.

Lack of accommodation, particularly in the hotel and backpacker sectors after many quake-damaged buildings had to be demolished, was also impeding the industry's recovery.

It was vital that rebuilding of central city accommodation took place as quickly as possible and "with a minimum of red tape", Mr Snedden said.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) says a transitional programme is already seeing new bars pop up close to the city centre and in the suburbs, along with other attractions in the CBD.

"In September the Ibis Hotel will reopen and the Re:START mall will extend north to link up with that, bringing more eateries and shops with it," said Cera chief executive Roger Sutton.

"By the end of the year Hereford St to Colombo St will be open, bringing more opportunity for entertainment-type establishments to open."

Temporary measures had to be balanced with the demolition programme and the ability for building and land owners to get their permanent businesses back on track, Mr Sutton said.

- NZ Herald

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