CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Aussie holidaymakers are arriving in Christchurch for the Christmas season, the first batch of holidaymakers to arrive at the Christchurch Airport in a decade.
The number of arrivals at the airport is down from the number of people arriving each year before that, but it is a big boost to tourism.
Christmas Eve is the first weekend the airport can handle all the holidaymakers arriving for the holiday season.
Christchurch Airport is the biggest and busiest in New Zealand and hosts the annual Christmas Eve event.
It is a major attraction for visitors to New Zealand, but in recent years has faced challenges including the closure of the airport for a long period of time in 2018 and the closure in December 2017 of the New Zealand Christmas Island cruise ship terminal.
Tourism to New Britain, a suburb of Christchurch, has also been hit hard by the Canterbury earthquakes.
A total of 6.7 million people visited Christchurch during Christmas Eve in 2017, up 12% on the previous year, according to the tourism ministry.
“It’s fantastic to see that the number that came to Christcchurch have all been tourists, it’s been fantastic,” Christchurch resident Michelle McCall said.
She said she had a friend from the US who had visited her from the UK and she was excited to see the number coming back.
New Zealand has seen a big rise in Christmas Eve tourism in recent decades, with more than 5.5 million people coming to Christ, with the average number of visits being about 300.
In 2018, the number was almost double the previous high, with a peak of 1.5m.
Most of the people arriving at the Christmas Island terminal this year are holidaymakers, with around 60 people per day.
Many of the tourists are from the United States and Canada, and many have been to New York City or Philadelphia.
Victoria University student and holidaymaker, Rebecca, said she was glad to see people returning to New England.
I’m a little disappointed to see so many of them leave for New York because of the earthquakes, but I know the people here are just as excited to come back to Christ,” she said.”
It would be great to see them return to New London or some of the towns, I don’t know if they’ve been to any of them yet.
“She said people had been spending Christmas in the US, and they were excited to return to the region.
Australia is also celebrating its 150th birthday and it is looking to make it a big year for Christmas, with Australia Day on February 12 and Christmas Eve being celebrated on March 14.