In a year when destructive events on a grand scale have created fear and confusion among travellers, it’s good to hear the calm voice of reason. Christchurch Airport is now open for Travel to New Zealand South Island and Hanmer Springs.
Tim Hunter, Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive, believes in telling it as it is. He admits that the February earthquake, following a smaller quake in September last year, will have a lasting impact on Christchurch but explains that much of the devastated area is to the east of the city, where tourists usually don’t venture. However, the damage to the city-centre cathedral – which had been attracting about 550,000 visitors a year – is a significant loss.
As winter approaches, Hunter is keen to reassure Australian skiers that Mt Hutt is set to open on June 11 with new snowmaking and grooming equipment, and the accommodation hubs of Methven and Ashburton are also open. Each year about 15,000 Australians flock to the popular snow resort, just an hour from Christchurch and much loved for its lengthy season.
“Neither the airport nor surrounding infrastructure were damaged in the quake, meaning Christchurch can continue as the major gateway to New Zealand’s South Island and Hanmer Springs. Last week, the new terminal building was opened as planned,” Hunter says.
In tourism terms, the biggest impact has been damage to city hotels: only 50 per cent of visitor beds are available. “But we can welcome everyone other than large groups or conferences, ” Hunter says.
Across the wider Canterbury region it’s business as usual, with 11,7000 beds ready to host visitors in a broad accommodation range, including nine hotels, 105 motels, myriad B&Bs and a handful of the luxury lodges that NZ does so well. Kaikoura, 2 1/2 hours north of Christchurch, is an example of the region’s diversity, offering whale watching and wilderness walks.
“As each month goes by,” Hunter says, “we are getting a greater sense of recovery.”
Hanmer Springs will be home to the Wallabies for four days during the Rugby World Cup.
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