By JAMES WILKINSON in Christchurch
Accor’s Ibis Christchurch has become the first CBD hotel in the city to open its doors following the devastating earthquake in February 2011.
Ibis Christchurch General Manager, Tim Dearsley, took HM on an exclusive tour of the property on August 31, which just weeks ago was still in the city’s ‘red zone’.
The 155-room property, which opened on September 4, has undergone major remedial work and is effectively re-opening as a new hotel, complete with the updated Ibis branding that was recently launched by Paris-based Accor.
“It’s basically a brand new hotel,” he said. “And the rooms on offer are great value for money.”
The hotel, which was only four years old when the earthquake struck the Canterbury capital on February 22, 2011, is offering introductory rates from NZD$119.
“The re-opening will help accelerate the city’s regeneration process,” Dearsley said. “It will not only ease the critical shortage of accommodation and provide employment for local residents in Christchurch but it will allow significant progress to be made in reviving the city’s central business district and tourism industry.
“The city has really needed the confidence boost of a major international hotel brand re-opening to cater for domestic and overseas visitors.”
Ibis Christchurch is located on Hereford Street, just around the corner from the city’s Cathedral Square which suffered the majority of damage in last year’s earthquake.
A significant amount of construction is currently taking place, including the demolition of most tall buildings in the city. In fact, around 1400 of the city’s 2000 buildings that stood before the quake will need to be torn down.
For the city to recover quickly the damaged buildings need to be demolished and those that have been repaired need to open, particularly hotels, so the city can accommodate business and leisure travellers.
The city has been open for business since the February 2011 earthquake and the re-opening of the Ibis is another way Christchurch is getting further back to business.
“Christchurch tourism has suffered enormously because of the perception that the city was closed following the earthquake,” Dearsley said. “This was never true, but the re-opening of the Ibis will highlight that the city centre is now accessible to travellers and that there is plenty to do in the city, including many of the old activities, as well as new and innovative tourism experiences.
“While some of the CBD is still cordoned off, it is important to note that the ‘red zone’ has reduced from 387 hectares to 49 hectares today and the authorities aim to have the city fully open by the middle of 2013,” he said.
The opening comes a month after the release of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, a blueprint for re-build of the city that includes a new convention centre with hotels and stadium – two venues that will be in close proximity to the Ibis.
Sister property Novotel Christchurch is set to re-open in mid-2013, however decisions are still being made about the development of the hotel’s former heritage wing, which was significantly damaged in the earthquake.