Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau manager Leonie Ashford says outside of the CBD there are several venues capable of hosting large conferences, all of which are undamaged and fully operational and exciting opportunities still exist for corporate groups and organisations to conference in Christchurch.
“The February 22 earthquake has certainly taken a toll on our central city conference venues and our city hotel accommodation but fortunately conference and exhibition venues outside of the CBD, like the CBS Canterbury Arena, Wigram Air Force Museum and Addington Events Centre have come through unscathed and are up and running as normal,” Ashford says.
Venues such as the CBS Canterbury Arena among others are running as normal and welcoming events.
“That’s fantastic news because it means we can keep the ‘open for business’ sign out and continue to welcome conference groups to the city. Fly-in, fly-out day conferencing options are already being considered to get around our shortage of hotel accommodation.
“We can also look forward to the re-opening of AMI Stadium, which has conferencing facilities for up to 800 people, in February of next year.”
In another boost for visitors, key parts of Christchurch’s central business district will be open again from October for shopping, dining and business. The ‘Restart 29.10.11’ project will have existing retail and hospitality businesses operating from October 29, 2011 in the city’s popular dining, bar and shopping precincts bounded by Oxford Terrace, Hereford St, Colombo St and Lichfield St.
Ashford said outside of Christchurch city there are also excellent conferencing facilities in Ashburton and Methven, both of which are just an hour’s drive from Christchurch International Airport.
“For smaller conferences we also have fantastic facilities available at some of our most popular regional destinations. Places like Terrace Downs Resort in the high country and Hanmer Springs alpine resort are within 90 minutes of the airport and offer a superb chance to combine business and pleasure. They not only have excellent conferencing facilities, but they also offer guests a great array of activities and experiences.
Local company Black Cat Cruises is encouraging businesses and event organisers looking for meeting venues to look to the high seas.
Black Cat’s managing director, Paul Bingham, said the company’s Canterbury Cat catamaran may be an ideal option for anyone planning a meeting, event or function at a venue that is now unavailable due to the quake.
“The catamaran is fully equipped with bar facilities and we can organise catering if required. It can be used from the jetty or taken out into Lyttelton harbour – either way, we believe having capacity will provide a solution for event planners and business people who have been caught short, but still want their event to go ahead.”
“Christchurch & Canterbury is still a great destination for conference groups. We may have to think a bit more inventively in some areas but we can still be great hosts and provide people with all the comforts they need to enjoy their stay,’’ Ms Ashford says.
Tim Hunter, chief executive of Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism, which oversees the Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau, says he is confident Christchurch can again be a key player in New Zealand’s business tourism sector, but acknowledges the city centre’s current accommodation limitations.
“Our ability to host large conferences will be very much be contingent on the restoration of hotel capacity in the central city,” Hunter said.
“Christchurch has always led the way in terms of business tourism in New Zealand and I’m confident it will do so again when our infrastructure, in particular our hotel capacity, is restored.
“Business tourism is a very important sector of our tourism industry and worth in excess of $100m per annum to our local economy so we’ll be working very hard to get it back up on its feet as quickly as possible.
“The Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau will lead the recovery process and it is working hand-in-hand with our key partners, Conventions & Incentives New Zealand, Christchurch International Airport, Vbase, with the valued support of other regional convention bureaux and RTOs throughout New Zealand.
“We are determined to recover and rebuild and to create an even better, stronger, and more vibrant city centre,’’ said Hunter.
Ashford says it is heartening that organisations which had been planning on holding conferences in Christchurch but had cancelled because of the quake, were still voicing their support for the city and pledging to return once Christchurch is back on its feet.
“People understand that we’re going through a difficult period but they’re confident we will rise up and again become a wonderful destination for conferences. The feedback we’re getting is that they’re certainly keen to do business with us in the future and that’s a very encouraging sign.’’