The tourism industry fears the Rugby World Cup will deter traditional tourists from visiting New Zealand in 2011 although the confirmation of Christchurch as host for two quarter-finals will bring a short-term boost.
Hotel operators, business, tourism agencies and local politicians hailed the World Cup organisers’ decision yesterday to give Wellington and Christchurch two quarter-finals each but also raised concern it would affect “the mother market” of tourists not interested in rugby.
The quarter-final matches will be held during the weekend beginning October 7, 2011. Auckland will host the bronze final for third and fourth place at a revamped Eden Park which had already been chosen as the venue for both semi-finals and the final.
Martin Horgan, managing director of tourism operator Southern World New Zealand, said yesterday the quarter-finals would have a negative impact on Christchurch tourism.
“I think the Rugby World Cup will be detrimental to tourism during that year. It turns away a lot of visitors because it is expensive and there is no capacity. It will be negative rather than positive. It will be one weekend of hell and that is it. It is not a big deal. You can only fit so many people in a stadium,” he said.
South Island director for the New Zealand Hotel Council, Scott Wallace, said higher air fares during the World Cup would deter tourists.
“There are only two major gateways into New Zealand, so if the cost of getting here is expensive because of supply and demand it could turn off the mother market,” he said.
The worried tour operators pointed to drops in traditional tourism during the Olympic Games in Athens and Sydney.
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chairman Paul Bingham said traditional tourists might stay away but the global exposure the Rugby World Cup would bring New Zealand should help in the long term.
“It is definitely an issue. Overall, you have to look at the profile and the exposure it will bring New Zealand. In the long term it will be a good thing,” he said.
“We are trying to get them (rugby fans) to come early and stay longer. If you are coming to the other side of the world you may as well see a bit of the country. It is a genuine concern.”
The games are expected to bring a $50 million revenue boost for Christchurch, according to estimates from AMI stadium managers.
Christchurch business leaders are also considering how to accommodate an estimated influx of 20,000 rugby fans in the week before the quarter-finals.
Encouraging Cantabrians to put up rugby fans in their homes and a cruise ship in Lyttleton harbour are being considered as novel ways to boost accommodation levels.
The Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said boosting accommodation and flights during the world cup would mean traditional tourists could enjoy New Zealand as well.
“We can make this a win-win, rather than a win-lose,” he said.
An accommodation audit has found about 40,000 beds within 90 minutes drive of Christchurch including motels, hotels, B&B, backpackers and holiday parks.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the event would be a huge global boost for the city’s image.
“It is a great day for the South Island and a great day for our city … this is an opportunity that anyone with a little bit of vision can see will be a great marketing moment for the city,” he said.
“They will be able to reconcile themselves with the thought that the event will be watched by billions of people around the planet. That will be a great boost and commercial for our city, our province, our island and our country.”