Outcomes of the Canterbury earthquake sequence for tourism businesses

Caroline Orchiston, John Vargo, Erica Seville

Resilient Organisations Research Report 2012/09

Executive Summary

The Christchurch earthquake sequence has been on-going since September 4th 2010. The largest two earthquakes, magnitude (M) 7.1 on September 4th and the M 6.3 on February 22nd 2011 caused immediate and significant damage to the city of Christchurch. As a consequence of the earthquakes, the tourism sector in the Canterbury region has been heavily impacted, with broader impacts being felt throughout the South Island. Resilient Organisations and the University of Canterbury began a series of quantitative investigations into the recovery and response of key business sectors to the earthquakes. The purpose of this study was to build on this work by exploring the outcomes of the earthquakes on the tourism sector, a critical economic driver in the region. Two postal surveys were sent to 719 tourism business managers; the first to businesses in the ‘Impact Zone’ defined as areas that experienced Modified Mercalli intensities greater than 6. The second survey was sent to the remaining businesses throughout the Canterbury region (‘Rest of Canterbury’). Response rates were 46% response for the Impact Zone, and 29% for the Rest of Canterbury.

Key findings
  • Tourism operators describe reduced visitor numbers as the most disruptive factor since the earthquakes.
  • While some businesses are still struggling, others are thriving. Parts of the accommodation sector are performing very well, with motels and holiday parks reporting positive outcomes compared to all other business types.
  • Revenue changes after the earthquakes are polarised, and sector-dependent. Activity and attraction, and visitor transport were significantly more likely to have reduced revenue after February, while motels and holiday parks reported increased revenue.
  • Almost all operators throughout Canterbury report changes in the types of visitors their business receives as a consequence of the earthquakes.
  • 70% of operators reported a decline in international visitor arrivals to their business after the earthquakes. Some districts outside Christchurch reported increased numbers of visitors from within Canterbury, illustrating the  outflow of Christchurch residents seeking respite from the aftershocks.


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