What a game! The Crusaders may not have won last weekend but Christchurch certainly did — the city came alive with thousands of eager rugby fans.
The visit by the British and Irish Lions, their support staff and loyal fans was a boost of energy and income, but also an opportunity to take stock of our tourism sector.
The latest Greater Christchurch Dashboard — Tourism, released on Sunday, looks at international visitor arrivals to Christchurch Airport, guest nights and accommodation availability.
Overall, while tourism is not back at pre-quake levels, visitor numbers and accommodation capacity are increasing.
It’s particularly pleasing to see annual international visitor numbers to Christchurch Airport (as at April this year) over 500,000 for the first time since the quakes. Total tourism expenditure in the greater Christchurch area is estimated at $2.3 billion in the 12 months to April 2017.
Capacity at motels and holiday parks is almost back to 2010 levels, but there’s still some work to do in the hotel sector, with bed numbers in March 2017 at 56 per cent of 2010 numbers.
We know the central city was struck hard in the quakes and a lot of building stock, including hotels, was lost. A number of hotels have re-opened, two more are in the process of substantial refurbishment or repairs, and new ones are in the pipeline, such as the Holiday Inn Express on Gloucester Street, scheduled to open next year.
I was lucky enough to attend the game on Saturday, but I know thousands more watched from local bars and restaurants, as well as the temporary fan zone on Poplar Street in the Innovation Precinct.
Locals also embraced travelling Lions by offering beds and campervan parking spots through the unofficial ‘Adopt a Lions Fan’ Facebook page.
This all shows, that despite greater Christchurch’s ongoing tourism challenges, the area is very much on the map and heading in the right direction. As a community, we can do our part by helping domestic and international visitors see Christchurch the way we do — not as a broken place, but a city of opportunity.