With much of the Christchurch CBD still cordoned off after earthquakes in late 2010 and early 2011, tourism industry representatives have called for the rebuild of a central city ‘area of normality’ as soon as possible in order to continue attracting the 900,000 international visitors who pass through New Zealand’s South Island gateway city each year.
This area would encompass the Restart the Heart retail area (an initiative aimed at opening the western end of the City Mall in time for New Zealand Cup & Show Week in November), the visitor zone, the Hagley Park events village and hotels within the CBD that can quickly reopen. This and the construction of a new Christchurch Convention Centre form the two key elements of a joint submission by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism and the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand to the Christchurch City Council’s Draft Central City Plan.
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism Chief Executive Tim Hunter says the speed at which the tourism sector recovers will primarily be driven by the speed at which accommodation facilities can be restored, as the city is desperately short of commercial accommodation.
The tourism industry is also calling for a powerful city icon to ‘wow’ visitors and attract them to Christchurch. Ideally this would be a stand-out iconic structure which would become synonymous with the rebuilt city. One suggestion is that it could be an Earthquake Centre that will offer residents and visitors a place to remember and learn about earthquakes. Whatever is decided, it is vital that every effort is made to bring visitors back to Christchurch as soon as possible as tourism is vital to the recovery of the city and the region.