The opening of the new Christchurch Visitor Centre today, by Prime Minister John Key in his last official engagement, is a multiple celebration for the city’s earthquake recovery, say tourism leaders.
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT) has established a new permanent visitor centre in the restored Arts Centre, after five years in a temporary facility in the Botanic Gardens.
CCT Chief Executive Vic Allen says it hails a new working relationship between the Christchurch i-SITE Visitor Information Centre and the Department of Conservation (DOC), providing a one-stop service for visitors.
“Our new visitor centre is a symbol of the city’s unwavering focus on regaining our pre-earthquake position as a vibrant and successful visitor destination. It showcases not only our access to New Zealand’s legendary landscapes, but also our modern rebuilt city centre,” he says.
A strong iwi presence creates a focal point for the new space. CCT has worked with Ngāi Tūāhuriri’s Matapopore Charitable Trust to integrate striking cultural elements into the design, including a narrative journey depicted in art, maps and signage throughout the centre.
The i-SITE is the first port of call for many visitors to Christchurch and the South Island, and is expected to attract 300,000 visitors in the 2016-2017 season.
The i-SITE and DOC Visitor Centre partnership started in 2011, when the agencies first teamed up in the Old Post Office Building, just six weeks before the Christchurch earthquake.
DOC Operations Manager Mahaanui Andy Thompson says more than five years on, the new joint space reflects partnerships, shared values, interweaving cultural journeys and adventures in New Zealand nature.
“The current and predicted growth in tourism is an exciting opportunity for both agencies, as we work together to provide a seamless visitor experience and complementary services to our shared customer base,” he says.
Arts Centre chief executive André Lovatt says the i-SITE is a natural fit for the restored Arts Centre on Worcester Boulevard given its proximity to numerous tourist destinations, including Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery and the Botanic Gardens.
“With its distinctive design and focus on visitors, it is a major attraction within the newly restored Arts Centre.”
Christchurch i-SITE Visitor Information Centre is open every day from 8.30am, except Christmas Day.