(L-R) Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism (CCT) acting chief executive, Ian Hay; CCT chairman, Paul Bingham; Tourism NZ regional manager Australia, Barry Eddington Source = e-Travel Blackboard: C.C The message from Christchurch’s top tourism officials is loud and clear: the city and surrounding areas are open for business and back to pre-earthquake operation. Speaking at a breakfast at Sydney’s Sir Stamford hotel, Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism acting chief executive Ian Hay and chairman Paul Bingham told media and trade group operators that Christchurch has bounced back from the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked the city on the morning of 4 September. The message from the tourism board was that the effects of the earthquake have been minimal and are now barely noticeable. “Some Australian consumers think that we’re flattened – we’re not,” Mr Bingham said.“It’s only two per cent of businesses that are inoperable.” “A visitor today probably wouldn’t notice the impact of the earthquake. All the icon buildings are intact,” Mr Hay said. “If you came to the city now, you’d have the same experience as you would have had before the earthquake. The ski fields, conventions – we’ve got 1800 people in this weekend for an education conference – all heritage and icon buildings, are open. “Most of the central shop and restaurants (are open), water and waste water has been restored very quickly – the council did a spectacular job.“The message is: ‘We’re open’.” Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, linked into the conference via Skype, reiterated that “tourism is up and ready to function.” Mayor Parker emphasised the point that the “earthquake-minded” city had structures in place to deal with such a disaster, dating back to 1930s buildings. “Structures, buildings, hotels, did the job – that was reassuring for us and for tourists. The key point I’d like to make is that events are still taking place against a background of solid infrastructure.” Fielding questions from the floor, Mr Hay noted that 12 per cent of Christchurch’s workforce is directly employed in tourism. The tourism industry brings about NZD$2 billion annually, he said. Asked whether the city is actively promoting discounts to lure tourists to the city, Mr Bingham suggested there didn’t seem to be a need to provide them given that trans-Tasman airfares were so competitive. Though, he did admit “no doubt some [operators] will see opportunities – inevitably the market will respond.” For Australians, the timing is ripe to visit Christchurch, given the amount of competitive flights and the strength of the Aussie dollar. “The Aussie Dollar is now buying NZD$1.30. With over 85 direct flights into Christchurch International Airport from Australia every week it has never been easier to make the short hop across the Tasman,” Mr Hay said. “Australians are our biggest market and very important – we’ve seen a 67 per cent return rate over the last season, and made a heavy investment to ensure growth over the next 12 months.” Mr Hay said the tourism board had delayed their advertising campaign by a month, in order to deal with the perceptions from the earthquake. The board’s response has been “to come into Australia more aggressively, with doubled spending”. The six-week campaign is due to start in late October, featuring multi-Emmy award winner and The Amazing Race host, Phil Keoghan. The campaign will involve a series of television commercials and online webisodes revealing Canterbury’s ‘best kept secrets’.Where things stand in ChristchurchChristchurch central city bars and restaurants are open and busy, and all public transport, including the heritage tramway, is running as usual.Iconic heritage buildings, including the Cathedral, Museum and Arts Centre are open. Some older buildings around the central city and eastern residential areas were seriously damaged by the quake but pedestrians are free to move around. The city’s hotels are in full swing and all of the main conference and events venues – including the Town Hall, Convention Centre, AMI Stadium and CBS Canterbury Arena – are without structural damage and continuing with their calendars.Next month, the city will host one of the biggest free concerts ever staged in New Zealand. The Band Together concert in Hagley Park on 23 October will raise funds for earthquake relief and feature top Kiwi performers including Evermore, Bic Runga, Julia Deans, and Opshop.