We can look forward to tourism looking up in Christchurch as the CBD cordon shrinks and plans for rebuilt facilities fire ahead. Great to hear our Press newspaper is relocating to its new building in Gloucester Street. It was almost ready to occupy when the February 2011 quake hit, munting the long-standing Press edifice, the only remaining Perpendicular Gothic building in New Zealand.
I feel reasonably neutral on the future of the Cathedral debate, perhaps siding with those supporting something new, inspiring, and capable of withstanding future seismic events which must happen given the now known network of fault lines beneath Christchurch. I do look forward, though, to the cardboard cathedral taking shape near Latimer Square. I suspect it will soon become a worthy visitor curiosity. One positive outcome for our earthquakes is Christchurch scoring the 2016 International Federation of Surveyors conference billed to bring 700 delegates, plus partners and exhibitors – and $3 million to the city. (Hopefully, also, a good number of tram rides.)
On the wider tourism front, Tourism NZ chief Kevin Bowler says the number of stay days for visitor arrivals has remained “flat” since 2008. One way to up our game is to enhance visitor experience. This is something we worked hard with on the trams. Our tram restart committee is meeting in preparation for the reopening of the tramway. The challenges will be there but I feel confident we will ably meet them. If our product pre February 2011 was very good to excellent, we have a substantial base to work from. The Port Hills Gondola attraction remains in limbo with on-going rock fall assessments. The gondola equipment and machinery are all okay. Considerable damage occurred in the Top Station mainly owing to fire sprinklers being activated by the quakes. The entire premises is being re-worked to present a spectacular arrival point when it reopens. Remember those great views, sometime above the clouds with the snow-capped mountains at eye-level? I look forward to resuming my winter excursions up the hill for camaraderie and coffee.
Many people have asked about our jaunty tram drivers (motormen) who were a highlight in the city’s tourism. I am regularly in touch with some and intend tracking down others. I will report back. No doubt they have found worthy alternative roles. Watch this space.