Flexible Ferrymead firm adapts to changed times

19:14, May 13 2012
Melissa Landrebe
MAKING A GOAL A REALITY: Melissa Landrebe of Ferrymead's United Travel.

Melissa Landrebe's Ferrymead United Travel business has had to do some travelling itself since the earthquakes, albeit only a few metres.

The business lost 14 trading days as a result of the February and June quakes, after losing power and services at the site, but was able to keep operating from its Ferry Rd building.

That changed in January when the business' insurer decided the building was uneconomic to repair, and gave the travel business eight weeks to find alternative premises.

Landrebe felt fortunate to be given two months' notice, but it did take that long to get a new office built and in place by the March 31 deadline.

Landrebe owns the building, and has owned the Ferrymead franchise since 2001. The business itself has operated at its Ferrymead location for 15 years, so relocating to another site would have been a big move.

Landrebe has worked in the travel industry for 18 years and said she found nothing more satisfying than booking someone's dream vacation.


The business had established customers and strong ties to the community in the area and did not want to relocate.

Constrained by a lack of suitable office space in Ferrymead, and reluctant to leave the area, Landrebe decided the lawn in front of her building would be a good destination for a new office.

She had a temporary office built for the business, so large at 90 square metres that it had to be delivered at 3am on a Friday to avoid disrupting traffic.

The new office was deliberately large so that Landrebe and her seven staff would be comfortable working there long-term, because Landrebe expects it may be up to two years before they have a new building.

The move did not cause any operational problems, thanks no doubt to her planning skills.

Various workers were booked in to arrive every hour to work on the office and then move on.

Staff also worked all day Saturday moving everything from the old premises into the new temporary office.

Ferrymead United Travel received a grant from the Canterbury Business Recovery Trust to assist with the costs of relocation, including signage and marketing.

Despite some residents having left that part of the city, there were still a lot of people around who needed to get away for a holiday and have something to look forward to, Landrebe said.

People wanted to escape a dismal area with containers and demolished buildings around them, so the number of people travelling was actually higher than last year.

And it was not people booking one-way tickets out of Christchurch. Instead, people were booking their typical one or two-week winter getaway.

That said, a lot of English people in the area had returned to England after the earthquakes, although Cantabrians were staying put, Landrebe said.

And recently it seemed people in the area had received their quake-payouts from EQC or insurers.

"My impression is there is a lot more money around than two years ago. People have been paid out for some repairs."

And while the repairs are being done, people are choosing to go away on holiday, so that by the time they come back the work is finished.

Also, some people have decided to wait before getting repairs done, and were using the money for a holiday instead.

Landrebe had insurance cover but that was for business disruption.

It also excluded money lost due to clients' cancelling trips.

But passenger numbers were up so business turnover was sitting "about even" compared to pre-quake levels, she said.

"It was really important to me to be able to keep all my seven staff and to stay in the Ferrymead community where we have been for the last 19 years.

"It is huge that I've been able to make that goal a reality," Landrebe said.

The Press