Tourism operators fear lasting financial impact from quake


As aftershocks continue to rattle the country, tourism operators are worried about what the future might bring.

Two people were killed after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck the South Island just after midnight on Monday.

In Wellington, it was a ghost town as engineers carried out structural checks and business owners swept up the mess.

Trinity Group managing director Jeremy Smith believes it will remain quiet in the city centre for weeks.

"There's the emotional cost on your staff, who are pretty nervous about coming back to work, and then there's the financial cost of when people are going to come back to work and get back into it."

Many hotels have already seen a spike in cancellations and Mr Smith says repairs will be just the beginning.

"The ones who have got to come back to work will come in, but I think it's going to be pretty much come to work, do what you need to, and leave again," he says.

"I suspect this week is going to be pretty quiet while people feel this way and double-check their buildings are okay to enter."

In the South Island, there's been severe damage to buildings in Blenheim and hundreds of tourists are trapped in Kaikoura where roads are cut off.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Vic Allen hopes operators will be back up and running for summer.

"Certainly the slips and the damage to the road and the rail infrastructure up there looks quite major, but we've yet to hear how long it might take to get those routes back into action," he says.

"We do have some issues obviously with roads closed, rail routes closed and damage to facilities. So certainly that makes itineraries somewhat problematic for our tour operators."

Mr Allen says the rest of Canterbury has fared well as aftershocks continue.

"It is a limited area that is affected," he says.