Chch ready to welcome tourists

Queenstown likely to gain from industry push

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 16:43 09/05/2012
Trenz
Fairfax NZ
Christchurch Airport ambassador Sir Richard Hadlee and Air New Zealand deputy chief executive Norm Thompson at Trenz in Queenstown yesterday. Both men, as well as a raft of Christchurch and Canterbury tourism groups and an innovative private sector, are looking to regain pre-earthquake tourism numbers not only for Christchurch, but the entire South Island.

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Queenstown should benefit from a push by the resurgent Christchurch tourism industry, airport, and Air New Zealand to draw back tourists after the Canterbury earthquakes.

Speaking at Trenz this morning, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive officer Tim Hunter said the main job combined tourism industry groups had was to "debunk the myth'' that Christchurch was still too damaged to welcome tourists and offer then an exciting and enriching travel experience.

Overall Canterbury lost 36 per cent of its usual tourist numbers after the two major earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011. The South Island, including Queenstown lost 13 per cent of its pre-quake tourists.

However, Canterbury tourism groups, along with a fired up private sector are spearheading the effort to claw those numbers back.

"We are a proud and safe city, and innovation among the private sector has lead to a breathtakingly quick rebuild,'' Mr Hunter said.

A new 18,000 capacity rugby stadium in Addington, which doubled as a 35,000 capacity concert or event venue, a downtown mall built from shipping containers and a proliferation of pop-up shops and bars were a testament to that innovation, Mr Hunter said.

Air New Zealand deputy chief executive officer Norm Thompson said international and domestic tourism drives by the airline benefit New Zealand as a whole, but Christchurch and Queenstown in particular.

"We will be increasing Chinese seat capacity by nine per cent and seat capacity from the United States by 11 per cent, as well as a domestic tourism drive to boost internal growth.''

Teaming up with Virgin Australia would also provide an overall increase of eight per cent in New Zealand's most crucial tourist market, Australia, Mr Thompson said.

The partnership would yield a 13 per cent increase in seat capacity between Melbourne and Queenstown.

Queenstown's snow industry was also firmly in the airline's growth target, with 243 return trips between the resort and Australia currently scheduled for the upcoming ski season.

The Japanese tourist market, New Zealand's fifth largest, had taken a hit because of its own massive earthquake and tremor-triggered tsunami in March 2011, but would "come back, and come back strong,'' Mr Thompson said.

A six week trial of a Christchurch-Mt Cook-Queenstown route in December was aimed to appeal to the Japanese market, and could result in a big increase of traffic between three of the South Island's pearls of tourism, Mr Thompson said.

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- The Southland Times

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