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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tourism braces for Christchurch earthquake aftershock

Tourism braces for Christchurch earthquake aftershock

Last updated 05:00 04/03/2011
Tourism bosses are worried that Christchurch's quake problems will become a national issue for the multibillion-dollar industry – one of the country's top export earners.

International travellers spend about $4.3 billion a year in the South Island alone, according to Christchurch Airport.

The earthquake has resulted in an immediate reduction in the number of tourists, particularly from Australia, going to Christchurch. Visitors were finding it hard to get beds because of the central city lockdown and demand from rescue and long-term recovery workers.

The loss – for the short term at least – of around 3500 hotel rooms plus many more backpacker rooms in the central business district means it will be a long haul getting the tourism industry back in shape.

In Christchurch – a gateway for South Island tourism – casualties among operators are expected.

Conventions – part of a conference industry worth $100 million a year to Christchurch – were all being cancelled, one tourism boss said.

Christchurch International Airport chief executive Jim Boult said he had received commitments from the major airlines that services to the city would continue. These included Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Air AsiaX, due to start services from Kuala Lumpur on April 1.

But there was a danger that some trans-Tasman services into Christchurch could disappear, or be relocated to other major centres such as Queenstown.

Mr Boult said the airport would probably meet with Tourism New Zealand, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT) and other regional organisations on March 14 to look at the sustainability of tourism in the region and how a "bank of rooms" could be set up around outlying Christchurch hotels and motels and in outlying areas like Methven, Kaikoura, Akaroa and Hanmer.

Mr Boult and CCT chief executive Tim Hunter said a key issue was how to move people quickly and easily from the airport to good accommodation in and outside Christchurch.

Prime Minister John Key has raised the possibility of using cruise ships in Lyttelton to provide accommodation during the Rugby World Cup in September. But Lyttelton Port of Christchurch chief executive Peter Davie said the ships could put pressure on normal operations.

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