Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

No fears, no worries, say Christchurch tourists

Liz Lane, Stuart Mairs and Jen Lane, are three UK backpackers who refuse to be put off by Christchurch's shaky reputation. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Liz Lane, Stuart Mairs and Jen Lane, are three UK backpackers who refuse to be put off by Christchurch's shaky reputation. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Backpackers are still flocking to Christchurch as a must-stop destination, despite the earthquake-ravaged city's ongoing shaking.

Travel guide and backpackers' bible, Lonely Planet this week labelled the city as one of New Zealand's "most exciting", with the glowing endorsement welcomed as a boost for the city's ailing tourist industry.

And today, with the city bathed in dry, balmy weather, the streets were full of wandering, young visitors from all over the world keen to take in the sights.

Stuart Mairs, 29, from Scotland, has been impressed by what he's seen since he landed after a long-haul flight from the UK three days ago.

He summed up the thoughts of many backpackers when he said: "It will take more than some earthquakes to stop me coming. There are still things to do in Christchurch - it's not a 'no go' area."

The Glaswegian has been reassured about the city's safety after speaking to local Cantabrians over a pint.

"I didn't have any real fears about coming to Christchurch, but I did think the worst of the earthquakes had passed. After talking to folk since I've been here, the quakes have obviously not stopped, but they have been very reassuring about it all and given me some confidence that it's not that bad.

"I've liked what I've seen so far and the people are great. I'm wanting to stay and get a job."

He is staying at the award-winning Jailhouse youth hostel in the southside suburb of Addington, which was highlighted by the rave Lonely Planet review as being the city's "most dynamic neighbourhood".

Also staying at the Jailhouse are English sisters Liz and Jen Lane who touched down on Thursday night.

Liz, 24, said she visited two years ago and went kayaking on the river Avon, and visited the now devastated ChristChurch Cathedral.

"The city centre and especially the cathedral was just beautiful. We're planning on taking a walk around the cordon tomorrow and I think it will be very sad to see.

"But the city has a lot more to offer and we're not going to be put off."

Her 26-year-old sister Jen said she had planned to leave the city as soon as she landed at Christchurch airport but she has liked what she's seen and plans to stay.

"I saw coverage of the December 23 earthquake on the news in the UK and wondered what I was doing flying to a city like that. I thought I would get out of Christchurch as soon as I arrived, but now that I'm here, I realise it's okay.

"It's nice to stay here and spend some time and help out the local economy a little bit.

"We've been trying to work out what we'd do if there was an earthquake. We've not felt one yet, but when it happens I'm sure it will be okay - it'll just be part of our holiday experience."

Sarah Woods, 24, from Suffolk, England, was staying at the bustling Christchurch YMCA.

She had been in the city for only three hours when she spoke to APNZ but had already taken in the cordon walk.

She said: "It was very interesting, especially when we saw the new pop-up mall, which is great and gives such a contrast."

Kathryn Richmond, acting accommodation manager for the Christchurch YMCA, was delighted with the rave reviews from the Lonely Planet.

She said they have been "flat out" , with a 95 per cent occupancy rate for their 105 rooms over the last month.

"It's been unbelievable," Ms. Richmond said. "We've been almost full every night.

"There is still a lot to do in the city - the World of Wearable Art exhibition at the museum, walks around the CBD red zone cordon. And then we're sending people on trips to the beach at Sumner, and over the hill to Akaroa, and Hanmer Springs.

"The Lonely Planet review was great because we get a lot of tourists mentioning that publication, so it's very important to get a good write-up."

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said although the cityscape had been changed forever by the quakes, the Garden City is still "a very special place and a beautiful gateway to the South Island".

"We have been working hard to get the message out to people that Christchurch is still a destination they should consider visiting."

American tourist Bob Schmidt decided to make a special stop in Christchurch during a whistle-stop tour of New Zealand and was today taking in the picturesque Botanic Gardens.

"You couldn't miss this," he said.

"The way I see it is if ordinary citizens are still living here, going about their daily lives, then it's good enough for me to come and visit."

- APNZ

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