Anecdotal evidence that visitors have been put off coming not just to Christchurch after February’s earthquake but the whole of the South Island has been backed up by Statistics New Zealand. It reports a decline of 24% in guest nights in the Mainland.
Guest nights fell 5.4 percent in March 2011 compared with March 2010, Statistics New Zealand said today. The decrease was driven by a fall in international guest nights in the Canterbury region and throughout the South Island. International guest nights in the South Island fell by 24 percent compared with March 2010.
“Nationally, capacity has dropped, driven by the decrease in the Canterbury region,” business statistics manager Louise Holmes-Oliver said. “Due to the earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011, less accommodation was available in Canterbury. Available capacity was down by half for hotels and by a third for backpacker accommodation, compared with March 2010. This should be kept in mind when looking at figures for the Canterbury region.”
Although the South’s loss has been the North’s gain:
All five South Island regions had fewer guest nights in March 2011 compared with March 2010, recording an overall decrease in guest nights of 15 percent. Canterbury had by far the largest regional decrease (down 30 percent), due to fewer international guest nights. The North Island recorded an overall increase in guest nights, led by increases in Auckland (up 8.0 percent) and Wellington (up 4.4 percent).
Losing thousands of beds from Christchurch which is the gateway to the south can’t help but impact on the rest of the island. Some people will by-pass the city and go somewhere else in the South Island but many others are staying away from the Mainland altogether.
Wanaka is never very busy between Easter and the start of the ski season but it seems to have been even quieter this year; a tourism business owner in Omamara told us visitor numbers had plummeted since late February and even Queenstown seemed a bit subdued on a couple of recent visits.
The news that there’s a 23% risk of another big earthquake somewhere in Canterbury will be very concerning for people who live there and it will be another deterrent to visitors to the province and the rest of the South Island.