By Ali Adams, ChristchurchNZ Chief Executive Officer
What does Christchurch mean to you? What makes us unique? How do we talk about ourselves? What about how others talk about us? How do we attract visitors? And what kind of visitors do we want to attract?
These are some of the questions that ChristchurchNZ is seeking answers to with a major piece of work now underway. We have been asked by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to produce two Destination Management Plans (DMPs), one for Greater Christchurch (including Selwyn, Waimakariri and parts of Mid Canterbury) and one for Banks Peninsula. Of course, Banks Peninsula is technically part of Christchurch City but as a destination, a rugged, sparsely populated peninsula with significant cruise visitation is a very different proposition than New Zealand’s second city.
So, what is Destination Management?
MBIE defines it as bringing together different stakeholders to achieve the common goal of developing a well-managed, sustainable visitor destination. It is an ongoing process that requires destinations to plan for the future and considers the social, economic, cultural and environmental risks and opportunities. It is much more than just marketing and promoting a destination, which is just one of the 16 main components that MBIE says is required in a DMP.
To fully understand that full range of opportunities and risks, the work has begun with community consultation. As well as many individual interviews with a wide range of stakeholders, this includes group interviews and public surveys. Those surveys have just closed and we recorded almost 10,000 responses to the survey aimed at visitors to our region and more than 4,000 responses for the community survey. These numbers far exceeded the expectations of the international agency doing this work with us, who typically works with much larger cities. That tells me that our community cares deeply about the questions I outlined above.
To produce these plans and do related work on redefining our place, after a rigorous selection process we selected a project team led by Resonance Consultancy, a globally recognised agency headquartered in Canada, in partnership with local agencies Narrative, Creative Agent and Fabriko. Part of understanding what makes our place special is comparing it to other destinations, and working with international experts who have worked with cities around the world will give us fresh insights.
We also need your insights, because to ensure this work is rooted in authenticity and informed by a diversity of viewpoints, we really want to hear from as many residents as possible. The survey responses were great, but if you didn’t get to respond to those and you’d like to make any comments about Christchurch, head to our social comment board, have your say and see what other ideas people have for our place.
Your insights and opinions will contribute to the large bedrock of research that will then inform the DMPs and a city narrative and identity for Christchurch. The DMPs, which MBIE is funding, will be delivered by mid-2023 and will be followed by work to reintroduce our place to the world.
The city narrative and our stories are not just about attracting visitors, they also help define what is truly special about our place. The world is increasingly globalised, meaning that cities all around the world are competing for the same visitors, workers and investment. That is why our reputation and attractiveness are key priorities for us as the city’s economic development agency.
Ali Adams - ChristchurchNZ Chief Executive Officer
The world is increasingly globalised, meaning that cities all around the world are competing for the same visitors, workers and investment.”
It is also important that locals can see themselves in a city narrative so they understand what others see as special about Christchurch and they can embrace and support that consistent message. We want to build on the love that residents have for our region to make them even prouder of our wonderful place and be the best advocates for it.
Some people have asked why we are doing this work now. A lot has changed in the world since New Zealand was last open for widespread visitation. People are more cautious about exploring new places following a global pandemic, and people in places that used to attract a lot of visitors have had a long time to consider if and how they want the previous visitor economy to change. With borders now reopened after more than two years of virtual isolation, this is the moment for communities to reassess their relationship with their place and how they want others to experience it.
As the oldest, and newest city in New Zealand, Christchurch has also changed a lot since the last time people could visit us in numbers. We already know from some of our early visitors, such as the Australian conference organisers who attended MEETINGS 2022 at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre in June, that people seeing our city for the first time in several years are amazed by how we have rebounded and rebuilt. I’m excited about the possibilities of this work and look forward to seeing what insights the team come back with.
So please have your say and watch this space for news of how the work is shaping up.