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Plan to raise arrivals by 50pc

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2014

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Christchurch Airport has laid out a bold 10-year strategy to increase overall passenger numbers by 50 per cent.

New chief executive Malcolm Johns and a management team have put together a strategy to build total annual passenger movements from 5.7 million now to 8.5m by 2025.

Johns described it as a "substantial stretch up".

The company says it lost its automatic position as number two airport in the country because of the 2011 earthquakes.

"I think we're at a point now where we can start looking forward and looking for growth, and being a little bit more aspirational and confident than perhaps we have been for the last three years," Johns said.

If the airport stuck to a business as usual scenario that growth would only reach 7.8 million annual passengers by 2025, Johns said.

The pairing of Auckland International Airport and its quarter share ownership in Queenstown Airport had taken advantage of the fall away in passenger numbers through Christchurch as a result of the quakes.

"For the last 60 years Christchurch and Auckland have been the two bookends to most people's holidays into New Zealand.

"The earthquake knocked us out of that seat . . ."

Johns said the airport's management team would be bolstered to give a stronger focus on growth of new passengers from South East Asia, and new air services. They would develop relationships with airlines, other airports and influential travel agents.

The economic impact from growth to 8.5 million passengers by 2025 would be an additional $1 billion of annual GDP (gross domestic product). Ten thousand new jobs would result, Johns said.

But Johns said to this point Christchurch Airport had lost 678,000 annual passengers it would otherwise have had if there had not been a natural disaster. That reduction in international and domestic visitors cut $20 million off the bottom line.

Christchurch Airport's share of international passenger arrivals was 20 per cent before the earthquake, but had dropped to 13 per cent, after the quakes.

The main beneficiary was Queenstown Airport with thousands more passengers arriving there.

The "real growth 2025 strategy" would drive that national share back up to 18 per cent.

Due to lower overall visitor numbers, the South Island regions fed by Christchurch were suffering a $200 million a year hit to annual gross domestic product.

That was because those that travelled to Queenstown tended to stay put while those that arrived in Christchurch went on to also stay in other South Island towns.

The number of hotel rooms in Christchurch had dropped to around 1900 from 4000 before the earthquakes.

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"So cumulative [since 2011] you're at about $600m of GDP that's been lost across regional South Island."

Christchurch needed to become a passionate storyteller about its unique attributes.

The city had the chance to become an "iconic 21st century visitor destination" that other cities could not match.

"The story of Christchurch, the most resilient city in New Zealand" would be the city's main attracting asset.

"The quakes will be Christchurch's number one story for many years to come," Johns said.

Supporting that could be the city's link with Antarctica; the airport will soon investigate how to develop the Antarctic Centre into a world class visitor facility.

- The Press

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