Convention centre project 'pivotal'

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 09:24 13/02/2013
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The new convention centre will be the catalyst for hotel projects in Christchurch, but until more is known about the proposed centre the city will not see a "nudge-up" in hotel development.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter told 200 Council for Australasian University Tourism and Hospitality Education delegates at Lincoln University yesterday that the convention centre was "the primary rebound catalyst" for new hotels in Christchurch.

"And while the team at CCDU [the Christchurch Central Development Unit] are working on this, it still lacks definition in terms of how big it is, how it's designed,'' he said.

''We still don't know who will own it and we still don't know what the timeline is.

"So until that happens we won't see ... that nudge-up in terms of new hotel projects."

Hunter wants the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to think about investment incentives to encourage more hotels and backpacker businesses to be built.

"They haven't quite listened yet, but we're still talking," he said.

The conferencing market was 80 per cent below pre-earthquake levels because of a lack of hotels and conference venues in the city, Hunter said.

Before the quakes, Christchurch had 25 per cent of the New Zealand conference market and a 46 per cent share of the Australian conference market into New Zealand.

Now 60 per cent of regular coach tours could not be accommodated in the city because there were not enough three or four-star hotels during summer, when most of that business came to town, he said.

At the time of the February 2011 quake, the city lost about 60 per cent of its accommodation, but now with some rebuilt, the city had 57 per cent of its original commercial accommodation.

Forty per cent of restaurants were in the central city, which was now 70 per cent demolished.

Hunter outlined an accommodation recovery path which forecast that the number of rooms available in the city would increase from 4532 in December 2012 to 6196 by December 2015 - an increase of 36 per cent.

Christchurch would not experience a fast recovery in tourism, Hunter said.

But Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism's Greater Christchurch visitor sector recovery plan highlighted factors to speed up the recovery:

- Making the transitional city "appealing enough and sexy enough" to attract people to the city.

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- Building a new convention centre quickly.

- Restoring lost flights to and from the city.

- Developing a sports tourism strategy that made sense for Christchurch.

- Prioritising the development of the Avon River Park.

- Fast-tracking the reinstatement of accommodation.

- Requiring Cera and the Government to think about investment incentives to get hotels and backpackers built.

Five firms have been shortlisted for the convention centre project.

A Cera spokeswoman said yesterday the tender process was still under way and no further update or timelines could be given.

Cera was working through the process as quickly as possible, she said.

The land for the convention centre would be cleared by the end of the year.

When the CCDU and Christchurch City Council first called for expressions of interest in October last year, they said that all respondents would be advised of the outcome this month.

WHAT'S HAPPENING THIS YEAR

February

Earthquake City Exhibition opens in the Re:Start mall.

March

Heritage OGB Hotel +36 rooms, reopens in Cathedral Square.

New 900-person conference space completed at the Air Force Museum, Wigram.

New Regent St reopens with restaurants and retail.

April

Copthorne Commodore Hotel +24 rooms, completes new hotel wing.

May

Rendezvous Hotel +171 rooms, reopens after earthquake repairs.

Christchurch Gondola reopens on Port Hills.

June

New convention centre design specs concluded and RFP confirmed.

July

Chateau on the Park +80 rooms, completes repairs.

Cardboard cathedral opens in Latimer Square.

August

Novotel Hotel +144 rooms, reopens in the Square.

Cathedral Square partial opening to public and visitors.

September

Latimer Hotel +125 rooms, completion of first new-build hotel.

New Carlton Hotel opens, restaurant and bar only.

October

New backpacker +30 rooms, opens 2013-14 summer.

Market Square at Arts Centre reopens for visitors.

November

Christchurch Tramway operations resume on main city loop.

- The Press

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