Drop in tourist visits 'arrested'

A drop in visitors to Canterbury, triggered by the string of earthquakes that belted the region, has been ''arrested'', Canterbury's tourism head says.

October's guest nights were up 12 per cent on the same month last year, according to Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter. 

The number of Australians visiting the region in September and October were also up 10 per cent and eight per cent respectively.

But an increase in hotel capacity and more airlines coming to the city were needed to maintain the fresh growth, he warned.

The region has celebrated a year of ''tourism wins'' with the highlight being singled out by influential travel book publisher Lonely Planet as a top destination.

Several of the region's tourism attractions and tourist operators also won industry accolades.

''Lonely Planet's inclusion of Christchurch in its list of Top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2013 was huge for us.

"It was priceless recognition of all the hard work that has gone on in Christchurch since the quakes and has the potential to make a major difference to the speed of the tourism industry recovery.''

This year also saw Canterbury grab nine spots in AA Travel's 101 Must-Do list.

A visit to the popular alpine thermal resort of Hanmer Springs, 90 minutes from Christchurch, was top of the list while a cruise around Akaroa Harbour with Black Cat Cruises was ranked third and the TranzAlpine scenic rail trip from Christchurch to the West Coast was sixth.

The Mackenzie District's Tekapo Springs, Aoraki Mt Cook and the Mount John Observatory also featured in the list, along with Whale Watch Kaikoura and the township of Akaroa.

Hunter said it was a big year for the Mackenzie District, which in June was named as only the second Dark Sky Reserve in the Southern Hemisphere and the only one with gold star status.

The proof of recovery, Hunter said, was that all major Asian markets, plus the United States are ''back in growth'' compared with 2011, and the Australian holiday market looks like it has ''turned the corner too.''

''It is now vital that we get the hotel and airline capacity increases we need to support this ongoing recovery to Christchurch - a city that has all the creative flair to both welcome and delight new visitors,'' Hunter said.

The Press