BY BRUCE GARRETT, REGIONAL CHAIR (CHRISTCHURCH), NEW ZEALAND HOTEL COUNCIL
Nine months on from the 22 February earthquake and the Christchurch hotel scene still has a long way to go.
Currently just over 800 hotel rooms are available, a significant decrease from over 3,700 pre-quakes.
However progress is being made. Virtually all guest luggage has now been recovered. Engineering inspections of the buildings have been carried out and geotech testing of the ground beneath the hotels is now underway in an effort to determine if and then how, the buildings can be repaired.
The hotels confirmed for demolition are Copthorne Durham Street, Latimer Hotel, Hotel Grand Chancellor (HGC), and Crowne Plaza. The first two have been demolished and the slow systematic demolition of HGC is well underway. The Crowne Plaza building owners are currently reviewing tenders for their demolition project.
All Seasons Cashel St were initially unable to retrieve luggage due to its precarious position next to HGC, however with demolition of the HGC now underway, luggage has been retrieved and will be returned to guests soon.
A decision on the future of the two Holiday Inns, Copthorne Central and All Seasons Papanui and Cashel Street is yet to be made.
Hotels likely to reopen once repairs are made are the Marque (being rebranded as Rendezvous), Quest Apartments, Ibis, Heritage, Novotel, Millennium and Rydges. The first three are hoping to re-open in the first half of 2012 with the latter four aiming for end 2012 or early 2013. This should see the city with around 2,000 hotel rooms operating by early 2013.
The Latimer Hotel is the only hotel to date to confirm they will rebuild. Construction is underway with completion likely in early 2013.
As hotels start to reopen the tourism and hotel sector looks forward to refreshed room stock coming back on line and Christchurch being able to cater for larger numbers again. Key to all of this is the location of new Christchurch Convention Centre. Many hotels will delay final announcements on reopening until they know where this major piece of tourism infrastructure is going to be located.
The current shortage of rooms has had a negative impact on group tour business coming into Christchurch and throughout the South Island. This situation is unlikely to change quickly, however increased air connectivity into the South Island may see some improvement for the greater South Island region over the summer season.
For domestic leisure travellers you will find accommodation in Christchurch, it just might not be in your usual haunts and make sure you book early.