Empty beds a worry for hostels
Christchurch backpacker hostels and adventure tourism operators are hatching a plan to win back young travellers.
All Stars Inn manager Phil Leslie is the spokesman for Backpackers and Adventure Tourism Christchurch (Batch), a new group of about 25 tourism operators set up to counter the city’s bad ‘‘rep’’ among young people.
Based on comments from 18-year-old Australian backpacker Katie Brennan, they have their work cut out.
‘‘It’s quite desolate, it’s a bit depressing being here actually,’’ she said after a day’s sightseeing.
Brennan, who was on a threeweek tour of the country, said she had enjoyed the Re:Start Mall and seeing the post-earthquake rebuild.
‘‘Compared to Wellington it’s really bad; compared to Auckland, not so bad,’’ she said.
‘‘I’ve heard about the [Margaret] Mahy playground which sounds like a lot of fun.
‘‘In terms of entertainment I’ve seen a couple of lively bars when I’ve been walking around, but not many, and I wouldn’t really even know where to go.’’
Batch is surveying guests about their experiences, where they sourced their travel information, and what could be done to improve things like transport.
The results will shape a social media campaign emphasising fun activities to do in and around the city, and Leslie said the group would be seeking support from the new Christchurch City Council events and tourism body, ChristchurchNZ.
Official statistics showed a continued drop in patronage at city hostels, which were experiencing a tough winter after a difficult summer. Many were running at occupancy levels of 20 per cent or 30 per cent, he said.
‘‘That means everybody is bleeding cash – it’s not a profitable business at that level.
‘‘Bed numbers in Christchurch, especially in the youth sector, are as bad as they have ever been.’’
Leslie said hostels were also coming to grips with a Labour Inspectorate crackdown on their long-held tradition of offering guests free accommodation in return for work.
Wage bills had increased significantly and he would need to hire an extra eight to 10 part-time staff over the summer.
Batch was needed because of the specific circumstances affecting Christchurch’s backpacker market, he said.
The closure of the Christchurch Adventure Park following the Port Hills fire was a serious blow, and the closure of State Highway 1 to Kaikoura had changed people’s travel patterns.
Previously hostels would often see guests two or three times as they completed loops around the South Island, but the city was no longer a ‘‘must see’’ destination with young people. ‘‘From what we can gather they’re getting to Christchurch and flying out.’’
Leslie said there was also concern that the new 271-bed Jucy Snooze at Christchurch Airport meant people did not bother going into the city.
However, Jucy’s head of marketing, Katy Medlock, said the company tried to educate guests about city attractions so they spent more time there.
‘‘We’re going gangbusters to get them to go into town.’’
She said occupancy over the winter had fluctuated wildly and while some nights were quite full, there had been lean times too.
"It's quite desolate, it's a bit depressing being here actually." Backpacker Katie Brennan