BY JAMES WILKINSON IN AUCKLAND
New Zealand’s proposed national convention centre in Auckland is one step closer to a reality with the country’s Prime Minister John Key saying a contract to build the expansive space will be announced in the not-too-distant future.
“We are getting much closer to announcing a contract for the national convention centre in Auckland,” Key told the New Zealand Hotel Industry Conference (NZHIC) in Auckland.
The idea of a national convention centre was first floated by Key at the 2009 NZHIC conference and won praise from hoteliers at the May 12 gathering at Sky City.
Key also said the Christchurch Convention Centre could be expanded when it is re-built by the city council.
“The Christchurch Convention Centre was badly damaged as a result of the earthquake and that has left Christchurch with a couple of options,” he said.
“One is to re-build what they had and the other is to potentially expand it. We are a long way from making a decision on that, but you can see the logic for a bigger centre.”
Key said he was confident the hotels that would need to be demolished in Christchurch would be re-built.
“One of the hotel chains that has three hotels that need to be knocked down have told us they are going to re-build those and potentially another one,” Key said. “So, there’s plenty of demand coming back, but there’s a short-term problem.
“And that was really the issue around the Rugby World Cup being hosted in Christchurch. As much as anything else, (the question was) could we accommodate people and give them the experience they actually wanted?”
The Prime Minister’s comments come as the latest figures show the February 22 earthquake has had a significant effect on tourism numbers in New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand CEO Kevin Bowler said while full year arrivals to March 2011 were up 0.3%, the month of March was down by 11.0%.
Bowler said it will take a “considerable marketing effort” to boost tourism in this year, but new flights from China Airlines (from Taipei via Brisbane), Jetstar (from Singapore), Air Asia X (from Kuala Lumpur) and China Southern (from Guangzhou) in 2011 should have a significant effect on inbound numbers.
The traditional strong inbound ski market from Australia was down on last year, he said, but Tourism New Zealand was confident there would be “decent numbers booking and arriving from June onwards”.
Bowler was also positive that numbers would be strong for the Rugby World Cup in September 2011 and afterwards, thanks to the global media coverage of the event from some 2000 journalists attending the six-week tournament.
The Rugby World Cup will turn New Zealand into one large party, with more than 1000 events being held in the country during the tournament.