Christchurch is on the rise

19 May 2015

Christchurch is well on the way to becoming the newest and most innovative small city in the world, says the head of its regional tourism organisation.

“We have had a great summer for visitors, and there’s a lot happening here right now. It is an exciting time to be in Christchurch,” says Tim Hunter, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism Chief Executive.

After a sequence of earthquakes in 2011, impressive new buildings are springing up and Christchurch is experiencing renewed tourism growth.

International passenger arrivals in to Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city and international airport, grew 15 per cent in February compared to February 2014, twice the overall New Zealand growth of 7.6 per cent for February.

“We have had a great summer for visitors, and there’s a lot happening here right now. It is an exciting time to be in Christchurch.”

Tim Hunter, CEO Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism

Mr Hunter says around $45 billion is being ploughed into the rebuild of the city, making it the largest economic undertaking in New Zealand’s history.

“In the past 12 months there has been significant progress in the central city, including three new hotels adding an extra 332 rooms, close to 50 new restaurants and bars, and many new central city retail developments are underway. Big business is coming back to the central city too, with a dozen more major office precincts to be completed within the next two years.”

The city’s new Convention and Exhibition Centre, to open in late 2018, will be an international-class boutique facility surrounded by premium hotels, shops and cafes on the Avon River.

Striking architecture is already earning the city international accolades for its world-leading seismic strengthening and sustainable, people-friendly design. The award-winning Ilex Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre is a contemporary take on a glass conservatory, while Shigeru Ban’s Transitional ‘cardboard’ Cathedral has been named by Architectural Digest as one of ‘the world’s 10 daring buildings’.

Adding to the buzz around the heritage area of New Regent Street, the Isaac Theatre Royal has reopened after a $40 million restoration and rebuild project, returning a magnificent 107-year old venue to central Christchurch. “It is now regarded as one of the safest and most spectacular performing arts venues in Australasia,” Tim Hunter says.

He says accommodation in central Christchurch is all brand new and refurbished stock, with a total of 301 properties and 5,450 guest rooms, and more to open in the coming year.

BreakFree on Cashel with 263 rooms designed for the tech-savvy, budget-conscious traveller, Ramada Suites with 25 boutique-style apartments, and Hotel Montreal a new five-star hotel with 47 rooms have all opened in the past year.

Crowne Plaza hotel will be back in Christchurch in 2017, when IHG opens its new 200-room central city hotel.

Near the airport, Sudima Hotel is due to complete its $20 million extension later this year, adding an additional 40 rooms and an executive wing.

Christchurch is making a name for itself as a stylish haven for foodies who are seeking out locally-sourced organic and raw food options, and the many Asian, North and South American cuisine styles on offer.

“As well as creative food, we also have excellent regional wines and craft beers to enjoy in bars around our new hospitality hotspots, like Victoria Street and Stranges Lane.”

The city’s heritage tramway has expanded this year to include a full loop of the central city, and the popular restaurant tram is back.

There are numerous active options for touring the city’s compact, flat streets and parks including walking, running, cycling and Segway tours, while the distinctive double-decker bus city tours are always a popular choice.

This summer, several major outdoor events including the ICC World Cup Cricket Opening Ceremony and games held at the Hagley Park Pavilion and Oval have given Christchurch worldwide attention. In June the FIFA U-20 World Cup will again shine the sporting spotlight on Christchurch.

Christchurch’s resurgence is also evidenced by the growing number of domestic and international air services into the city.

An extra 95,000 international passengers came through Christchurch Airport in the year to February 28, 2015. In the past six months, the number of trans-Tasman seats has increased by 11 per cent.