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Christchurch struggles to bring back tourists

02-22-2012 09:21 BJT

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Tourism operators in Christchurch have been struggling to rebuild their industry after a devastating earthquake in February 2011, flattened much of the city centre. The quake left nearly 200 people dead and injured thousands.

Images of the city's destruction were beamed around the world and visitor numbers there plummeted. Andrew Dupuis takes a look at how the city is rebuilding.

One year has passed. In New Zealand's second largest city, some tourists are starting to return to Christchurch. The city's key icons remain on postcards sold in the tourist office, but buildings such as the cathedral have yet have to be demolished.

The Canterbury Museum is one of the city's few attractions that survived the quakes and is operating normally.

Tim Hunter, chief executive of Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism, said, "Over the last ten months we're down about 21 per cent (on international visitor arrivals), but it is improving, and that's important. The month after February we were down 56 per cent and we were really hurting, but we're on the comeback trail, and that's really good."

Like many other buildings in Christchurch, some hotels were declared unsafe after and still lie unoccupied with an uncertain future. Much of Christchurch's city centre remains cordoned off, and could be closed to the public until 2013.

Key tourist attractions including the cathedral, art gallery and arts centre were damaged in the quake and subsequent aftershocks, and are still inaccessible one year on.

Demolishing uninhabitable buildings has been a slow process, delayed by ongoing aftershocks.

However, tourism officials believe that a recent released travellers' guide will encourage visitors back to the city. As it describes Christchurch as "a vibrant city in transition, coping resiliently and creatively with the aftermath of New Zealand's second-biggest natural disaster".

But with much of the city centre inaccessible from the ground, visitors also have the option of viewing Christchurch from the air.

Mark Read, pilot of Garden City Helicopters, said, "Now it's very popular. It's mainly because people cannot see into the red zone, so that was one of the big advantages of the helicopter, and it was very, very busy, and still is extremely busy."

Garden City Helicopters says that, so far, most of the passengers on the Christchurch tour are current and former residents of the city who want to get a bird's eye view of how the city is changing.

"I definitely have a greater appreciation of what happened a year ago, and I guess how little progress has been made with the rebuild," said a resident.

In the absence of traditional visitor activities, the stories and effects of the quakes are starting to attract tourists. Interest in the city's earthquake ordeal and recovery have seen tourism operators launch several new products that offer visitors the chance to learn more about life in the quake zone.

Meanwhile the demolition of quake-damaged buildings goes on and the rebuilding of the city continues.

 

Editor:Liu Fang |Source: CNTV.CN

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