Two years on Christchurch is ever-evolving

22 February 2013

Two years on from the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch, venue and hotel capacity is bouncing back and the tourism industry is eying the future with confidence.

"It's been a tough road but all the signs now point towards a bright future for our city and for our industry," said Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.

"We have been enjoying a great summer with international visitor numbers at least 20 per cent ahead of last year," added Hunter.

Australian holiday arrivals - Christchurch's biggest international market - have shown a 2.3% growth in the four months to December 2012 in spite of a 25% reduction in airline capacity over the same period.

Perhaps more importantly the perception change of Christchurch by Australians has been measured with results showing a more positive outlook. Compared to all international markets, Australians' perception of Christchurch has shifted by +8% versus a -1% change for all markets.

Despite some parts of Christchurch's city centre still being closed off because of demolition work, more than 4,300 accommodation rooms are now available in the city (including hotels, motel and backpacker accommodation), with another 600 due to be added by the end of the year.

The latest hotel to reopen is the Heritage Christchurch on May 13. The Heritage Christchurch has been a part of the Christchurch hospitality industry since its opening in 1996 in the site of the former Old Government Building (OGB), which was designed by Joseph Clarkson Maddison and opened in 1913, and is registered as a Category One Building on the Historic Places Trust register.

Christchurch now has more than 550 cafes, restaurants and bars open, many of which are located in the innovative Cashel Mall, a temporary collection of shops and cafes housed in shipping containers.

A new central city shopping area is due to open up next month, the Port Hills gondola will re-open in April, and work will shortly be underway on fixing the city's popular heritage tramway.

"Several more of our top hotels in Christchurch are well on their way to re-opening, we've got a lively café and restaurant scene re-emerging in the central city, and we have new venue space that allows us to once more promote ourselves as a great destination for conferences and events," said Hunter.

"With construction soon to start on the new three kilometre Avon River Park and the planning of new retail and hospitality precincts well advanced, Christchurch will soon become one of the best small cities in the world. We have every reason to be optimistic about what the future holds," he added.

Since the quakes Christchurch has been named by Lonely Planet as one of its 2013 Top 10 cities. The influential travel publisher says Christchurch "is rising from the rubble…with a breathtaking mix of spirit, determination and flair" and forecasts that this year will be an intriguing year for visitors to join the rebirth of Christchurch.

"We've also got the opening of our unique cardboard cathedral, designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, to look forward to. It's going to be a must-see attraction for visitors and another symbol of the creativity and innovation that people can expect to see in the new Christchurch," Hunter said.

The Cardboard Cathedral will open in July and most significantly Cathedral Square will open partially to visitors again in August.

For more information on Christchurch and what is to offer in the city and the surrounding Canterbury region go to www.christchurchnz.com.