Operators poised for Christchurch return

Operators poised for Christchurch return
By admin

More tour operators seem poised re-introduce Christchurch to itineraries as the city enters the next phase of its recovery from the 2011 earthquake.

Tim Dearsley, manager of the soon-to-open Ibis Hotel in the city centre, said feedback from operators during a famil this week and at an industry briefing last night, was positive.

“We’ve had Australian operators talking to us about putting Christchurch back on the travel itineraries,” he said. “Forward bookings for the Ibis are looking really positive and it’s important we do need a good base of tour people.”

The vast majority of operators withdrew last year for safety reasons and also because of a lack of hotel inventory.

Tim Hunter, chief executive of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, said there were sufficient beds in Christchurch but admitted city centre hotel rooms remained tight.

“Fortunately we have large motel accommodation,” Hunter said. “We are a bit short of hotel and backpacker capacity so while we have enough total beds the mix is slightly wrong.”

Of 34 hotels prior to the earthquake, 13 are now open with 10 more expected to resume trading over the next two years.

Hunter estimated a further seven or eight will be needed to cater for the planned 2000-capacity convention centre, which is due for completion at the end of 2016.

“We had an over capacity beforehand with average occupancy of about 60% so we don’t need as many,” he said.

Dearsely said the oversupply has led to low room rates and revenue per available room. “There will be natural hotel growth,” he said.

Two hotels of up to 200 rooms form part of the new convention centre complex.

Meanwhile, Christchurch's Mayor insisted yesterday that the city's five-year, $30 billion redevelopment will not turn it into a huge building site or ruin the experience for visitors.

Despite the huge scale of the project, which will begin with the creation of an Avon River Park project, Bob Parker said work will be phased so not to impede the recovery of the tourism sector.

“You’ll be able to come here and have a good night’s sleep,” he said. “You won’t have a jackhammer next door.
“All these things are part of the planning process. The redevelopment will be phased.”

The reassurances came as Christchurch mapped out its vision of a city fit for the 21st century. Parker said it was a “reimagining” of the city rather than a rebuild.

While some of the Victorian buildings that characterised Christchurch will be “lovingly restored”, the redevelopment will incorporate sustainability, energy efficiency and safety that were simply not possible beforehand.

 “What was appropriate in the 19th Century does not tick the boxes today,” Parker said. “We get to build a city that resonates with the world as it is today, not as it was 200 years ago. It’s an extraordinary opportunity.

“We promised our community we would build the safest city in the world.”

Parker, along with Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter, urged Australian tourists to return to Christchurch in the interim to experience the transition and to witness the “remarkable creativity” of locals.

The entrepreneurial spirit in Kiwis has seen a “spontaneous period of innovation”, with empty sites becoming impromptu restaurants, book exchanges, bars, galleries and, in one example, an open air dance floor where you bring your own music.

“We are not saying to tourists, hey, come over here and have a look at empty spaces,” Parker said. “There has been flowering of creativity.”

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