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Friday, March 25, 2011

Christchurch to be gateway

Christchurch to be gateway

Last updated 14:35 24/03/2011
Christchurch will serve as a gateway more than a destination for tourists as the tourism infrastructure, accommodation in particular, in the earthquake-shaken city is assessed and rebuilt, Air New Zealand chief financial officer Robert McDonald said.

Speaking to about 150 chief financial officers at the CFO Summit in Auckland, McDonald said the national carrier has changed the schedule of its trans-Tasman flights into and out of Christchurch so more tourists could arrive and leave during the day time.

"While the hotels are out of action, it's important that where people can't stay put [in Christchurch] for a period, we set up our services so they can enjoy the surrounding areas of Canterbury."

Tourism hopes are pinned on tourists still coming for the ski season which traditionally kicks in in June and McDonald said the airline's "middle of the day arrivals and departures, with very few late night arrivals and really early starts" is an exercise to "making sure the ski season goes well this year".

Day time departure and arrivals means those coming for a ski holiday, say to Mt Hutt, which is usually the first ski area to open, have plenty of time to get to their destination.

"It is an attractive schedule until circumstances are changed.

This would give people opportunity to move about in Christchurch and then on to other destinations within the Canterbury region and the South Island," McDonald said.

Night time arrival into Christchurch would mean the use of hotels, motels and other lodgings.

Early departures would also mean those taking them have to stay in Christchurch prior to the flights.

Around a third of accommodation in Christchurch has been lost due to the February earthquake and priority to the remaining space has gone to members of the recovery operation teams and others helping in the aftermath such as damage assessors and emergency repair groups. 

High-rise hotels formed the backbone of Christchurch's rooming capacity, estimated at 3,400 rooms, not including backpackers and motels.

Many of these buildings, particularly in the central business district, suffered damage in the magnitude-6.3 earthquake.

Asked for how long the schedule will be kept in place, McDonald said it will be there "until circumstances change" which could either translate to the ski season being over or enough rooming capacity becoming available for tourists again.

For domestic flights, McDonald said "schedule changes will be by demand".

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