South Island tourism still feeling the jolts

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 07:07 17/02/2013

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South Island tourism operators are blaming the ongoing effects of the Canterbury earthquakes for a downturn in business.

A lack of accommodation in Christchurch coupled with a loss of entertainment and sporting venues is causing visitors to delay a visit to the South Island or avoid Canterbury entirely.

Tourism Dunedin chief executive Hamish Saxton said "without a doubt" the impacts of the quake were still being felt throughout the South Island.

"Dunedin is still seeing a decrease in visitors . . . there is a lack of accommodation in Christchurch and with the loss of those trans-Tasman flights, too, Christchurch isn't so much the gateway to the South Island that it used to be."

Saxton said it would be a "slow game" to restore people's confidence in Christchurch as a destination and said until the city "loudly demonstrates the rebuild" then tourists would continue to bypass the region, or the whole South Island.

Christchurch International Airport chief executive Jim Boult said once anchor projects outlined in the planned redevelopment of the city were completed, tourists would naturally come back.

Boult tourists numbers coming to the city were down compared with before the quakes but said "international services", such as the planned Convention Centre, would "bring them back".

But the short-term future told a different story. "It seems that when Christchurch catches a cold, the rest of the South Island sneezes," he said.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief exectuive Tim Hunter said many tourists were still put off from the region because of earthquake-related issues. "We're going to have to be patient . . . the recovery of tourism is going to be a little slower [than the rebuild]," he said.

Last month, in the peak of summer, some visitors had found it "incredibly hard" to find accommodation in Christchurch, he said. Christchurch had lost 22 trans-Tasman flights a week in the past few years, and this was also having a negative impact.

Chief executive of Nelson Tasman Tourism Lynda Keene said Canterbury was the major domestic market for the area and visitor numbers were still slightly down.

"People in Christchurch are still thinking about their homes and businesses first before holidays and rightly so."

But Keene said the region had been much busier this summer compared with last summer.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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