Central Christchurch businesses are optimistic about visitor numbers this winter.
Optimism and excitement is in the air as central Christchurch prepares to open its arms to thousands of visitors expected this winter.
The city’s convention centre Te Pae opened it doors for its first event last month and this week will host 650 delegates attending the business event industry’s flagship Meetings exhibition.
It will be the first large international exhibition at Te Pae, and is just one of about 100 events scheduled at the centre this year, including more than 60 conferences.
The events will bring more than 67,000 people into the central city and generate an estimated $37.2 million in direct economic value, Te Pae general manager Ross Steele said last month.
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These figures have businesses feeling optimistic about the immediate future after a dismal two years due to Covid-19 and a long wait for Te Pae to open.
The $450m earthquake rebuild project, paid for by the Crown, was completed 14 months later than expected after the pandemic delayed its construction and commissioning.
Central City Business Association chairperson Annabel Turley said the last two years had been pretty tough for businesses, but there was real excitement about Te Pae and what it could bring to the city.
“People are starting to see hope. It’s onwards and upwards,” she said.
“I think the convention centre is a very important part of the city, just like all the anchor projects.”
Turley said retailers and businesses were feeling optimistic about visitor numbers over the winter.
People attending the Meetings conference will be staying in 15 hotels close to Te Pae, which is situated in Cathedral Square.
Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury branch president Peter Morrison said Te Pae was going to be excellent for the city.
The Meetings event had resulted in good bookings for the city’s hotels and restaurants, and Morrison said that would spread to the likes of taxi companies.
Meetings, which runs on Wednesday and Thursday, is New Zealand’s only national trade show for business events and will showcase 211 stands from 18 regions of New Zealand to 110 Australian and over 300 domestic event organisers.
It is the first time for 14 years that the event has been held in Christchurch.
Christchurch’s convention centre is finally opening its doors. (video first published on December 17, 2021)
Megan Crum, head of business events at the city’s promotional organisation ChristchurchNZ, said visitors to Meetings would discover why Christchurch is a great conference destination.
Meanwhile Mt Hutt, the city’s closest skifield, is also hoping to attract more visitors, especially Australians, this season.
Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie said the field’s owner, NZ Ski, was pushing hard in Australia to get people to cross the Ditch this winter.
“We’re pretty excited about the return of our friends from Australia.”
Bookings from Australia were about a third up on this time last year across NZ Ski’s three fields – Mt Hutt and Queenstown’s Coronet Peak and the Remarkables.
Last year’s season was badly affected when the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia was suspended in late July.
Vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents are now allowed to enter New Zealand, as well as tourists from other visa-waiver countries. The border will fully reopen on July 31.
Mt Hutt was due to open on Friday but was delayed by a lack of snow.
The skifield had received about 30cm of snow by 1pm on Sunday and McKenzie expected more to fall overnight and into Monday morning.
He said the dumping of snow and colder weather forecast meant it was likely Mt Hutt would open later this week.