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TRENZ (Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand), having inaugurated its first conference event in 1985, has become the largest international showcase for the New Zealand travel industry. TRENZ typically attracts around 300 travel and tourism buyers from about 30 countries.

Welcome Aboard Christchurch sales and marketing manager Blair Hartland has just returned from this year’s event feeling upbeat about Christchurch and Canterbury.

TRENZ 2014 was held at The Cloud on Auckland’s Queens Wharf.

“An excellent venue,” says Blair. “Including media, attendance hit about 1000. Welcome Aboard had 52 appointments with almost every one very positive.

“Christchurch and Canterbury got an encouraging hearing from agents keen have us back on their itineraries.”

He adds, “We need to be realistic. Christchurch, following the earthquakes, has been lacking the visitor experience. Having said that, our Welcome Aboard attractions are as good as ever.”

Other good points include more hotel rooms becoming available along with other accommodation.

“We are getting the message out that Christchurch is slowly but surely getting back on its feet. A real need is to get more cafes, bars and restaurants close to accommodation. These are cultural things visitors expect in a city.”

He points out that a significant earthquake is considered to be over when the shaking stops.

“The reality is that is where the problems start. We were considered a write-off as a region even though the earthquakes were mostly a city-only problem. Canterbury has remained almost untouched and as majestic as ever. Being one of the best New Zealand regions to visit in terms of diversity has not changed.

“People from Europe don’t distinguish Christchurch from the South Island. To them it is all the same place. And Australia, our best market, was bombarded by the media with earthquake woes.

Blair stresses we are in rebuild mode, even if we think progress is slow.

“This year’s TRENZ was much more positive for our region than the last three. Everyone feels we are getting there. Welcome Aboard attractions are definitely leading the way. People see the heritage Trams plying the streets, the punts on the Avon River, the thriving Botanic Gardens with our Caterpillar Tours. It all looks to be happening in the visitor attraction arena.

“The re-opening of the complete city tram loop and the extension being completed will be a great boon for local tourism. Travel agents tell us they are keen to see the Restaurant Tram back.  That will happen later this year when we have a more viable tram route.

Christchurch Tram No. 11

“At the next TRENZ, in Rotorua, I am keen to tell agents our tramway is not only fully operational but extended through the Re-start Mall and emerging CBD.”

He says TRENZ has been excellent for getting our message out.

“We had a big interest amongst Australian agents. The UK market is returning and the US is stabilising.

“Japan was our second biggest market pre-quakes.  Japan was quick to turn off but JTB and other Japanese companies are becoming involved again. It might take a couple of more years of no problems at this end before the Japanese visitor numbers build significantly.’’

Blair also explains about the impact of emerging travel markets including China, South America (mainly Brazil), Indonesia and India.

To attend TRENZ, tour companies are required to make an application which then goes before a team of experts who decide the outcome.

“We have never been turned down,” Blair says.