Quake city Christchurch is bouncing back after shattering earthquakes that killed 181 people. It desperately wants tourists back too. Particularly women, because this is now a place where men can outnumber women by four to one.
Before the 2010/2011 quakes, the city in southern New Zealand had been the gateway to the South Island for 82 per cent of international visitors. The South island is one of the adventure capitals of the world: skiing, snowboarding, jetboating, mountain climbing, fishing, fabulous food and wine drinking…. and serenely beautiful Christchurch, the capital of the Canterbury region, had also been a mecca for tourists. Of course, many stopped arriving.
Writing about the Christchurch quake 2011 and the decimation of its tourist and travel industry was one of the first stories I ever wrote for Taste for Travel, almost two years ago. Three weeks after the major quake that killed 181, and left thousands homeless on February 22 of that year, I went there. The heart of a quintessential English city had been levelled. Where gothic architecture had once graced the streets, there were mountains of rubble. Tall buildings teetered like drunks. The roads were undulating. It looked like a war zone. People were stoic one moment and nervous and tearful the next. They relived, over and over, that awful day when their lives were turned upside down.
I was in Christchurch to stay relatives, and in my suitcase was crockery, coffee and tea cup sets and other kitchen items I had bought for friends who had lost almost everything.
The aftershocks dragged on for 18 months, further fraying nerves, and there’s still an occasional shake. But now Christchurch is well on the way to rebuilding, with a new plan for a sustainable and safer city centre. It will cost billions of dollars to restore the heart of the city. Hotels such as Hotel Ibis Christchurch have reopened, with a Novotel scheduled to reopen in April. Thousands of workers, mainly men, have flocked to Christchurch for the rebuild. A new temporary city centre has been built from brightly-painted shipping containers. Look at the pix. It’s kind of funky.
Now get this. Some PR genius in Australia, along with Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, have marketed Christchurch as a love hub.
“Valentine’s Day is now every day in Christchurch as the ever-evolving New Zealand city has witnessed a surge of young, eligible men arriving from all over the world to help with the rebuild, signalling an end to the man drought. Hundreds of men, predominantly from Ireland, the UK and Germany, have been flocking to the city as demand for labourers, architects and engineers has soared with the rebuild of Christchurch,” writes Jill Collins of Sydney’s Barking Owl Communications.
The media release continues: Thirty two-year-old Christchurch resident Kelly Stock said: “Christchurch women used to far outnumber the men, but since the earthquake we have seen an influx of men from all over the world coming to help with the rebuild. There is a veritable smorgasbord of tradesmen – from engineers, builders and IT professionals – coupled with a real mix of nationalities, so you can really take your pick! I found myself a lovely and very good looking South African plumber and we’ve been together for over a year now. I couldn’t be happier!”
While Stock could just be lucky in love, a straw poll of inner city bars on a typical Friday night carried out by the tourism organisation backs up this growing trend of rising numbers of eligible young men, says Collins.
Popular Christchurch pub Pomeroy’s is reporting a ratio of almost four men to one woman. At Revival Bar, a new venue in Christchurch made from shipping containers and recycled materials, the ratio of men to women typically sits at around three to one. Sam Heaps, owner and manager of Revival Bar, said: “We have lots of Irish lads which lends itself to increased tall tales, and loud vocalisation of cheeky one-liners. The average female is now spoilt for choice.”
Henare Akuhata-Brown, owner and manager of Bean Scene and Cargo Bar – the first of the new Shipping Container Bars to be opened in Christchurch – agreed: “We are definitely seeing signs of the women drought here at Cargo Bar. Our female bartenders get lots of attention, although to be fair, they are extremely good looking!”
So there you have it, girls. Just thought you would like to know. Discuss.
Other images of Christchurch courtesy of TravMedia