Earthquake spirit interwoven into Christchurch tourism strategy

13 March 2011

Christchurch's community tenacity and bravery in the aftermath of February 22's devastating earthquake could spur a faster recovery of the city's tourism industry as tales of incredible human endurance are revealed to the world, a marketing expert believes.

Professor Rod Brodie, head of The University of Auckland Business School's Department of Marketing, says whilst Christchurch's important tourism industry will suffer in the short-term, the stories of the city' determination to recover from the trauma of the past six months could one day be woven into its heritage to make tourism even stronger.

"Human drama is a very powerful and rich way to tell stories, and we have seen earthquake-stricken cities like San Francisco and Kobe recover and flourish after terrible tragedies," Professor Brodie - who spent the first 40 years of his life in Christchurch - says.

"The remarkable stories of Christchurch people helping each other are currently being broadcast to the world every minute of the day, and as long as we ensure that our communications include safety aspects and the caution with which we will rebuild the city in terms of earthquake-withstanding construction techniques, I believe Christchurch tourism will see a substantial recovery within a few years."

However, Professor Brodie says the city's problems will have a knock-on effect around the country, with destinations like Queenstown and Kaikoura likely to experience a drop-off of visitors who normally flow through Christchurch's tourism hub.

"Unfortunately, other parts of the world don't differentiate Christchurch from New Zealand, so there are many false impressions around the globe that the whole country has been hit by the quake," he says.

"From a marketing and economic perspective, that’s going to be a real challenge that the whole country will have to tackle."

Whilst the city is a "bombsite" at present, it still has immense beauty and heritage attributes that will continue to attract visitors, Professor Brodie says. "When the mess is cleared up, that beauty will still be there. Grass will grow back, trees will flourish, the Avon River will run and all the parks will be back to their best.

"As long as the Kiwi tourist numbers are robust, I think Christchurch's future is challenging but promising at the same time."