Christchurch needs to 'fight' for slice of NZ's tourism boom
Christchurch needs to become an "edgy 21st century city" if it stands a chance of attracting its share of New Zealand's tourism boom, the city council says.
A new visitor strategy says without immediate intervention, Christchurch's "diminished role" in the tourism sector could be locked in forever.
The Christchurch City Council is next week expected to adopt the strategy, which aims to see the city regain its pre-earthquake slice of the tourism market by 2025.
But it will not happen without a fight, the strategy said. If the goal is achieved, 7000 new jobs and $1 billion of additional expenditure will be created.
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The council estimates the city's visitor economy is down about $300 million each year because of the earthquakes.
While the rebuild presented opportunity, long-term success in the tourism sector was not guaranteed, the strategy said.
"The inner-city is a construction zone and Christchurch's commercial accommodation capacity is still down 29 per cent with 48 per cent less hotel beds."
Queenstown was now another "recognised gateway to the South Island" and international airlines were increasingly focusing on Auckland, it said.
The strategy included initiatives to enhance "visitor experience", target the right visitors at the right time and strengthen the city's gateway role.
Transforming Christchurch into an "edgy 21st century city with a difference" would make it a must-see destination, it said.
In February, Statistics New Zealand data showed tourism was bouncing back in Canterbury but Christchurch was still missing out.
Earlier this year, councillors directed staff to emphasise the importance of the long-awaited convention centre, hotel investment and resolution around Cathedral Square in the strategy.
Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the post-earthquake gap in the city's tourism market was "closing all the time" and said some figures in the strategy were outdated.
Organisations had a "common objective" to grow the city's the visitor economy, Townsend said, and the strategy helped with that.
"But I don't agree that it will take 10 years to [regain pre-quake tourism levels] and I think that's pretty pessimistic."
For the strategy to make a difference, all sectors needed to "own it and work it", he said.
Canterbury Development Corporation chief executive Tom Hooper said the biggest barrier in the city was people's perceptions.
"On a national scale, and internationally, people still think Christchurch is broken. We have to change that."
Embracing modern technology and design was a critical part to becoming the "edgy" place the strategy prescribed, he said.
"There's still a big gap between where we are now and where we were before the earthquakes and we're not just going to recoup that by right."
People had the choice of other New Zealand destinations so it was up to the city to convince them to visit Christchurch.
Managing director of Christchurch tourism company Welcome Aboard Michael Esposito said the strategy was a "good launching pad" but the 10-year target was conservative.
"We've turned the corner I think . . . but there are some problem areas."
At the moment, major hotels were all east of the Avon River, which has not rebuilt as quickly as the area west of the river, he said.
"People walk out of their hotels into nothing so we need to make tourists feel safe and welcome, especially at night."
Christchurch International Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said Christchurch was a "city with opportunity" and the strategy drew key areas of the visitor economy together.
"Cities need to be organised, focused and clear about the social and economic outcomes they want to achieve from the visitor sector."
The airport fully supported the council's "bold approach", Johns said.
Christchurch city councillor Paul Lonsdale said it was common practice to take a conservative view when developing strategies.
He agreed the $300m annual loss was outdated but believed it could be higher now, not lower.
The strategy brought together the business, events, sports and tourism sectors rather than having individual approaches for each, Lonsdale said.
"Edgy is a good buzz word but in reality we want to create a modern city that shows off our natural assets and is a fun, vibrant place to be."
'EDGY' IS DEFINED AS:
- Having a bold, provocative, or unconventional quality - Merriam-Webster
- At the forefront of a trend; experimental or avant-garde - Oxford English Dictionary
KEY CHALLENGES FOR CHRISTCHURCH*:
- relatively few restaurants, bars and nightclubs
- lack of entertainment, sporting and meeting venues
- lack of iconic visitor attractions
- no natural hub in the central city
- noise and disruption caused by construction
- negative perceptions following the earthquakes
- no coordinated events strategy
- lack of funding for new and innovative things
- largest city in the South Island
- gateway to the South Island and Antarctica
- natural beauty (Port Hills, Avon River, Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens)
- vibrant hospitality and arts sector
- creative transitional facilities and art installations
- strong industry, tertiary sectors
* Christchurch Visitor Strategy Background Paper