Tourism will weather last month's magnitude 7.8 quake, but Treasury is warning the total cost of the disaster could reach up to $3 billion.

Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf yesterday said some of the $2b-$3b cost of the November 14 tremor would be covered by insurance or existing resources.

He said the quake "definitely had an effect on the economy and the Government's fiscal position" - but it was unlikely to damage the national tourism industry.

While Kaikoura was a popular tourist destination, the area accounted for only 1 per cent of tourist spending in New Zealand.


But the local tourism and primary industries were likely to hurt more.

More than two weeks after the tremor struck, Kaikoura remains largely cut off from the rest of the country. Slips blocked the main route in and out of the town, State Highway 1, as well as the inland road.

Damage to infrastructure, such as rail and roading, would hurt the tourism industry and increase freight and travel costs, Makhlouf said.

As roading contractors frantically cleared landslides and cracks along Inland Rd, tourism bosses were organising overnight and day trips into the town, in an attempt to get Kaikoura back on its feet.

South Korea's Asiana Airlines cancelled nine charter flights into Christchurch soon after the quakes hit, while the New Zealand Government lobbied Japan to change a general travel advisory to specifically refer to the Kaikoura area.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website mentioned the November 14 jolt but kept its usual advice to travellers to "exercise normal safety precautions" in NZ.

Makhlouf said visitors cancelling or redirecting trips within New Zealand because of the disruption or the risk of more earthquakes could have a wider impact on tourism.

"Nevertheless, at this stage this effect is thought to be relatively small and the overall impact on tourism will be less than the Canterbury quakes."

The region was already showing signs of recovery.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism (CCT) told the Herald yesterday that new day trips and overnight stays from Christchurch, and from Hanmer Springs, were being developed. "The mood is optimistic ... As soon as the access issue is resolved, visitors will come back," CCT chief executive Vic Allen said.

"Australia and domestic are the most sensitive markets, as they are hearing news about aftershocks.

"Longer-haul visitors are more resilient. Most have booked well in advance and are continuing to enjoy their holidays, with slightly different itineraries."

Jetstar said in the fortnight after the quake, it saw "a small change" in transtasman booking patterns, with higher demand for Auckland and Queenstown and a slight fall for Wellington and Christchurch.

But a spokesman for the budget airline yesterday said bookings were "more or less back to normal".

On Tuesday, Christchurch International Airport - the international gateway to the South Island - announced "a significant vote of confidence in the South Island" with news that China Southern Airlines would boost its direct services over summer.

The airline now flies three times a week between Guangzhou and Christchurch, but will fly five times a week from December 12, and daily between January 15 and February 17.

Graeme Abbot, general manager of Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, said the village was working hard to ensure the world knows it's undamaged and open for business.

"Things are getting better," he said.

Last weekend it welcomed 2168 visitors - down by about 35 per cent on an average November weekend, but "a huge improvement on where things were at immediately after the earthquake", said Abbot.

"Luckily, Hanmer Springs is viewed by many as a safe haven - this is where thousands flocked for a break from the Christchurch earthquakes and already we are seeing people from the badly affected areas who need some time out."

Shane Adcock, manager of Hurunui Tourism, said the district's two main tourist areas - Hanmer Springs and the Waipara Valley - were undamaged and open for business but faced other challenges.

"The closure of State Highway 1 is having a big impact on parts of our district - particularly in and around Cheviot," Adcock said.

"Businesses there were hugely reliant on through traffic. We're working on plans to bring visitors to the area - for example, there are a lot of cycling opportunities now."

Tourism NZ said it stressed to international markets and overseas tourists that NZ remained a safe place to visit and most of the country was unaffected by the quakes.

"Visitors can still come and have a fantastic experience in the country."