Spoof marketing videos fronted by Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker have been released today as part of a light-hearted campaign to draw Australian tourists back to the quake-damaged city.
In a series of mini-movies, which have gone live on YouTube and will be screened on electronic billboards in downtown Melbourne and Sydney, the mayor takes a cheeky dig at Australians' love of "big stuff".
He says he wants to "borrow" the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, the Big Chook from Mt Vernon, and the Big Merino from Goulburn, and plant them across the rebuilding city to put it back on the radar for Australian holidaymakers.
The tongue-in-cheek $1.2 million marketing campaign has been designed to highlight a new Christchurch, to replace the death and destruction that was beamed across Australia following the deadly February 22, 2011 earthquake.
The Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism campaign, Christchurch Reimagined, is part of drive to arrest the 43 per cent drop in Australian visitors to the region since the quakes.
"We cannot afford to let visitor numbers continue to drop so we have to change the way Australians see Christchurch," said Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.
"The Christchurch that many Australians picture in their minds has changed dramatically. What visitors to Christchurch find now is a city unlike any other in the world - a city where the determination to carry on has led to innovative developments like shipping container shopping malls and pop-up bars and restaurants. We're still a glorious garden city but now we offer something unique."
Throughout the campaign Jetstar will be offering discounted travel deals to Christchurch from Australia.
Mr Parker, who has a starring role as the hands-on civic leader wanting to appeal to Australians "crazy about big stuff", said the unique take was crucial to appeal to the cross-Tasman sense of humour.
He said tourism is crucial to the rebuild of the devastated region.
"Australia is traditionally our biggest source of visitors but since the quakes some Australians have been reluctant to visit because they saw the images beamed around the world immediately after last February's quake and felt it would be inappropriate to visit.
"Those dark days are behind us though and as city we've moved forward in leaps and bounds.
"We believe now is the time to share our story and our progress with our friends across the Tasman and to send them a clear message that we want them to come visit."
Jetstar Australia and New Zealand chief executive David Hall is confident Australians will respond positively to the campaign.
He expects to see a steady increase in the numbers travelling across the Tasman.
"The city is reinvigorating itself as a vibrant, prosperous and distinctive place to visit and do business," he said.
Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult says the quirky campaign is a "great initiative" and once young Australian visitors come, they "might want to stay a while" and get a job.
- APNZBy Kurt Bayer @KurtBayerAPNZ Email Kurt