Christchurch hotels plan relaunch

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2011

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Christchurch's Rydges and Latimer hotels are making progress towards a reopen and a rebuild on the outskirts of the earthquake red zone cordon.

The hotel sector has been on the back foot for months, given the interruptions of ongoing aftershocks and restricted access to the central business district.

Newly-appointed NZ Hotel Council Canterbury regional chairman Bruce Garrett said the Rydges property was one of the more easily accessed hotels on the side of the CBD red zone and could be an early reopen for the sector.

The Latimer Hotel, due to be demolished, could be rebuilt in a 12 month period, said Garrett, who is also general manager of The George hotel.

"Slightly out [of the red zone] is the Latimer Hotel ... they made their decision pretty much on day one and began plans for rebuilding ... they're just waiting on various consents and things."

The opening of other damaged hotels such as The Millennium, the Heritage and the Marque would depend on access, Garrett said.

The future of the Crowne Plaza remained uncertain, with the hotel close to the badly damaged Town Hall and Convention Centre complex, industry members said.

Chris Black, general manager of hotel development at Rydges in New Zealand, said the owners of the property (part of ASX-listed Amalgamated Holdings Ltd) had been watching developments at the nearby Clarendon Tower, which must be demolished.

Structural engineers had been into Rydges and he was due to visit the building which was structurally sound but damaged internally.

"All things being equal we would hope to have it open by mid next year ... obviously Christchurch is desperate for more beds. The sooner we can get some hotels opened up, the better Christchurch will be," Black said.

Christchurch Hospitality Inc spokesman Tim Dearsley said he was making progress on the "re-creation" of the hotel industry in his liaison position with a "co-operative" Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Cera was helping with access, and repair work on a limited basis was going on in the Rydges, Novotel, Ibis, Millennium, Heritage and Marque hotels. He thought the Holiday Inn on Cashel St was "pretty OK" in terms of damage.

Repairs on relatively undamaged properties could take a year to complete.

"The problem, of course, is the CBD is still [limited in access]. It's not locked down. We can get access into the hotels apart from The Poplars, which is going to be demolished, the Grand Chancellor which is going to be demolished, and the All Seasons in Cashel St."

The CBD hotels were generally working to be ready to cater to visitors and tourists in the 2012/13 summer season, Dearsley said.

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Ahead of that would be other openings including a YHA property outside the red zone on the corner of Rolleston Ave and Worcester Boulevard, where repairs were underway.

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels New Zealand managing director BK Chiu said the company was frustrated while awaiting a structural report update on the Copthorne Hotel Christchurch Central, in Victoria Square, and the less damaged and "repairable" Millennium hotel site in Cathedral square. The Copthorne hotel on Durham St is to be demolished.

Accor spokesman Peter Hook said work on the company's central Christchurch properties, including a Novotel and Ibis which looked structurally sound, remained dependent on progress with other neighbouring damaged properties including Warners Hotel. Nearby Base Backpackers was significantly damaged.

The company had access to the Novotel to restore essential services prior to the remediation of the building.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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