Bruce Garrett at The George

 The George hotel in Christchurch is the only hotel open in the city’s CBD. In an exclusive column for

HM, General Manager Bruce Garrett looks at the challenges facing both his hotel and the South Island’s largest city.

Being the only hotel currently open in the CBD following the February earthquake does have some benefits.  Obviously with less hotel rooms currently available any demand is shared between the hotel and motels still trading and this has resulted in higher occupancy levels.

Our market mix for accommodation has changed however with very few international leisure visitors now.  The business we are seeing is mostly domestic and corporate and the result for us means a lower average rate.  We have tried to be careful when accepting any advance bookings so as to leave space for our regular corporate and wholesale clients.

There is also a trend towards extremely last minute.  One would think that with the restricted options and availability people would try to plan a bit earlier than usual but the opposite seems to be happening, with many reservations being made for same day or next day bookings.

Not that we are complaining however, we realise how fortunate we are just to be able to operate and keep our staff employed, not to mention provide business to our suppliers who have lost many, many clients.

Our restaurants are busier, particularly now full access is available – for the first few weeks after our cordon was lifted a number of the streets around us were still closed making access difficult. 

One area where we are really noticing strong demand is our function rooms, these have been particularly busy.

Looking forward we have a number of enquiries from tour group series and have been able to accept some of these.  As the memory of the tragic events of February fade I anticipate that we will see the return of a good number of international leisure guests over the summer – probably nowhere near normal levels but certainly more than currently.

While the heart of the CBD may not be open until sometime in the New Year, most visitor activities are up and running.  The Antarctic Centre, Casino, Punting, Willowbank wildlife park, Orana Park, Tranz Alpine train journeys, LOTR tours, Akaroa including harbour cruises. The wineries of Waipara and the Mt Hutt ski fields were totally unaffected by the quake so also available. We are expecting the Art Gallery and Museum to be open by the end of June and there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the suburbs available for wining and dining.

Plans are underway to hopefully have a couple more CBD hotels open by November ready for some of the expected increase in visitors at that time.

My advice for those thinking of coming is that there is plenty to see and do, just book your accommodation early.

*Editor’s note: currently only nine of 35 hotels in Christchurch are currently operational.