Tourism boss recalls 'noteworthy' year

Last updated 05:00 27/12/2012

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Canterbury's tourism head says 2012 was noteworthy, with rising visitor numbers and a host of industry awards to back that up.

A drop in visitor numbers, triggered by the earthquakes that belted the region, had been "arrested", Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said.

October's guest nights were up 12 per cent on the same month last year, he said.

The number of Australians visiting the region in September and October were up 10 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

Hunter said an increase in hotel capacity and more airlines servicing the city were needed to maintain the fresh growth.

Canterbury had celebrated a year of "tourism wins", 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," Hunter said.

"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 get nine spots on AA Travel's 101 must-do list.

A visit to the 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. The TranzAlpine scenic rail trip from Christchurch to the West Coast was sixth.

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

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.

Others involved in the tourism industry received awards, accolades and praise during 2012, Hunter said.

"These awards are testimony to the talent of the people who work in our tourism industry and to the quality of the products we offer in Canterbury."

All the major Asian markets, plus the United States, were "back in growth" since 2011, and the Australian holiday market looked like it had "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.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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