Scoping tourism dynamics post-quake: A module for MERIT
N Smith, Caroline Orchiston, E Harvey, J Kim, Charlotte Brown
Prepared for: QuakeCoRE, NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), November 2016
The Canterbury earthquake sequence began in September 2010, with the magnitude 6.3 aftershock on February 22nd 2011 causing the largest urban disaster in the country’s history. In the five years since the earthquakes in Christchurch, the tourism sector has experienced a structural shift in demand, as a larger proportion of inbound visitors have chosen to arrive in the South Island via Queenstown. International visitor arrivals in Christchurch have been significantly reduced, and are yet to rebound to pre-quake levels. The impact of the earthquakes on the rest of the Canterbury region and the South Island has involved nuanced responses based on visitor market, highlighted by guest nights and expenditure figures. In summary, there is evidence that the rest of the Canterbury region experienced increased demand after the quakes, particularly for visitor services provided by accommodation providers and supermarket/grocery stores. For the whole of the South Island visitor numbers and expenditure fell well below forecasts (even with 95% confidence interval bounds) for at least two years, with the Australian market particularly impacted. In the North Island there is some evidence that the event may have increased tourist demand, at least by the international market, although the results are not conclusive. For the first few months after the February earthquake in 2011, visitor numbers and expenditure rose above projected levels, although generally still stayed within the 95% confidence interval bounds except in the case of the Australian market. Unpicking the impacts of the earthquakes from other influences is made particularly difficult by the timing of the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Perhaps surprisingly there is no clear evidence that the earthquakes caused a sustained negative impact on tourism for New Zealand as a whole, with visitor forecasts remaining within 95% confidence intervals throughout the post-quake period.