Kaikōura's tourism changes tack in quake aftermath

4:43 pm on 27 January 2017

Kaikōura tourist operators are working to rebrand in the aftermath of the November earthquake.

Kaikoura main street 19 January 2017.

The main street of Kaikōura: Business is back, though not entirely back to normal yet, after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 14 November. Photo: RNZ / Joelle Dally

Destination Kaikōura says it is working on a new way of marketing itself, including the promotion of the old Alpine Pacific Triangle drive route, which covers Christchurch, Hanmer/Waipara and Kaikōura.

Destination Kaikōura general manager Glenn Ormsby said business had changed and tourist operators needed to look at new way of doing business.

It was not just Kaikōura looking at a new way of doing things.

"From Destination Kaikōura and the whole North Canterbury, Marlborough District, business has changed and we all have to look at new ways of doing things.

"We've got a new drive route, the Alpine Pacific Triangle, that we'll be bringing that onboard and we'll see where that goes to.''

In the second week after the earthquake, 53 percent of visitor attractions were open. That figure now stands at 88 percent, with 88 percent of retail businesses, including cafes, reopened.

Mr Ormsby said accommodation providers were initially at 66 percent, but now 78 percent were open.

Whale Watch Kaikōura marketing manager Lisa Bond said normally they would be able to do 16 tours a day but now, due to seabed restrictions, it was only one or two.

She said there had been a change to the flow of visitors. Operators had to embrace it.

"We are going to become an amazing destination out of this, even more so than we were nine weeks ago.

"We're at reduced capacity and we can't take much more because we are filling those seats each day but looking ahead we're rethinking how we do things in the past for sure.''

Kaikoura earthquake State Highway 1

Kaikōura has always been a destination in its own right, no just a stopping point, tourism operators say. Photo: RNZ / Joelle Dally

She said the earthquake brought tourist operators closer together in the region. There was more collaboration.

"The Apline Pacific Triangle has been a thing of the past and now it's time to revamp it and we're telling people, 'why not come in one way and go out the other', you get to experience it all.

"People are making an effort to come in the inland road and it's not that much longer either.''

Encounter Kaikōura general manager Dennis Buurman said it was doing about one third of the business it would normally do.

He said, in the short term, any plans for reviving the Alpine Pacific Triangle would not have an impact.

"The big thing is getting information through to the tourists who are finding it difficult to get to Kaikōura with all the roading issues. I think getting clarity around signage is vital for Kaikōura because from all reports it is quite confusing, even for those coming up from Christchurch.''

The big worry was the coming winter, he said.

"Usually you build up your reserves over summer cos that's the busy time and then you just have to make it through winter which is very quiet. So we're pretty much having a summer-winter and the concern will be for all businesses about how it's shaped up for the winter.''

Steven Joyce in Kaikoura specking to bigger businesses about dredging the harbour to get whale watching operators up and running.

Whale-watch boats at South Bay: The town is known for its coastal and marine wildlife, including whales, dolphins, seals and albatross. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism said Kaikōura was always a destination in its own right. It was only locals who used it as a stopping point for journeys between Christchurch and Picton.

It said initiatives in the past two months included social media campaigns, ensuring Kaikōura was a key part of the Top of the South route for marketing to inbound operators, and hosting familiarisations for trade and media to Kaikōura.

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