The November 2016 earthquakes had a profound effect on tourism in Kaikōura and impacted surrounding districts. By February 2017, the majority of the Kaikōura’s tourism, retail and hospitality establishments were open for business, but visitor spending was still significantly lower than in previous years.

A large proportion of Kaikōura’s visitor market had traditionally been made up of those stopping off on their journey along State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch. Damage to roads into the region was severely limiting the number of visitors. Overall, the Kaikōura District Council estimated between 60 and 70% of the local tourism and hospitality market had been lost.

Neighbouring Marlborough’s tourism industry was also expected to take a hit during the autumn and winter months, with State Highway 1 remaining partly closed south of the region. Cantabrians contribute around 65 per cent to Marlborough’s total visitor spend, and there were concerns that the alternative longer route between the regions, via State Highway 7 and Lewis Pass, would be seen as difficult to drive during the colder months.

Hanmer Springs, a popular visitor destination in the Hurunui District south of Kaikōura, experienced no significant physical damage as a result of the quakes. However, it suffered from a downturn in tourism activity immediately following the first earthquake, particularly from domestic tourists.

This downturn was also strongly felt in Cheviot, one of several small settlements on SH1 affected by the closure, and in the North Canterbury wine region.

Action taken

In December 2016 the Government announced a support package of up to $350,000 to help attract Cantabrians and other visitors to Hanmer Springs and the Hurunui District. This includes marketing to encourage the return of domestic visitors to the Cheviot and North Canterbury wine region.

A further $870,000 was announced in February 2017 to help promote tourism in Kaikōura and other upper South Island districts impacted by the earthquakes. This was allocated as follows:

  • $650,000 to Kaikōura to enable a strong marketing push to encourage the return of international visitors during the 2017/18 peak season, and to support work to attract domestic visitors
  • $150,000 to Marlborough for promotional work to encourage domestic visitors to continue to visit the region
  • $70,000 to promote common Top of the South touring routes to the international travel trade, as these had changed following the earthquake.

Led by Christchurch International Airport Limited (CIAL), regional tourism organisations and other key stakeholders in Canterbury, Hurunui, Kaikōura and the top of the South Island are now actively developing and implementing recovery plans and marketing campaigns that will help minimise the negative effects of the earthquakes on local tourism.

An example of their work is the promotion of the Alpine Pacific Triangle touring route, which takes visitors from Christchurch to Kaikōura and back down to Hanmer Springs.

New marketing collateral has been produced for the Alpine Pacific Triangle route, including photography, map designs, printing and web assets, the development of which was supported through central government funding.

Planning is also underway for promoting changed touring routes to the overseas travel industry, to ensure that these feature in international visitor itineraries for the 2017/18 peak visitor season.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is working closely with the New Zealand Transport Agency on visitor enhancements, eg viewing areas, well-being and cycling tracks, along the re-built coastal highway. New car parking areas are planned to improve linkages with existing DOC tracks and camping grounds, enhancing the visitor experience and recreation opportunities. There are plans to develop arking areas adjacent to the marine reserve south of Kaikōura, and for viewing seals at Paparoa Point.