Christchurch Airport signs up top sportsmen

Two internationally respected Cantabrian sportsmen have signed on to represent Christchurch International Airport overseas.

Cricket great Sir Richard Hadlee and rugby hero Brad Thorn are the first of a team of Christchurch International Airport Ambassadors and will represent the airport in India and Japan respectively.

Sir Richard will begin his duties next month, traveling to India with airport managers to meet airline and travel industry executives and other officials.

Christchurch International Airport CEO Jim Boult says Sir Richard's ambassadorial role will help raise the profile in India of not only the airport, but also Christchurch and the South Island.

"Sir Richard is a cricketing legend recognised the world over and particularly in India, where cricket has a very strong following," says Mr Boult.  "He played in 86 test matches for New Zealand over 18 years and is the greatest all rounder in the history of the game. He is well known and highly respected in India."

Sir Richard says he is delighted by the opportunity to promote Christchurch Airport.

"In my opinion, Christchurch Airport is the gateway to the most beautiful parts of New Zealand," he says. "Christchurch is my home and I live here by choice, surrounded by the best New Zealand has to offer. I look out my window towards the stunning Southern Alps and know it's exactly the sight many Indian travellers come here to see. I'm keen to help more of them do that."

Brad Thorn is acknowledged as the former hard man of the All Blacks forward pack and is now playing for Japanese club Fukuoka Sanix Blues, but says he has a soft spot for Christchurch.

"Most international travellers come to New Zealand for our awesome mountains and lakes, so they love flying in to Christchurch over the Southern Alps. Christchurch Airport welcomes millions of visitors every year and I look forward to helping more Japanese visitors see the best of New Zealand. I hope to help airlines consider New Zealand and the South Island as a must-see destination for Japanese travellers."

CEO Jim Boult says the airport ambassadors will work closely with the company's aeronautical business development team, sharing their love of the South Island with officials, airlines and agencies, including those already providing services here.

"Statistics show international visitors spend more time and more money in the South Island, so we plan to work with our ambassadors, airlines and travel companies to make our epic scenery and amazing experiences available to more travellers," he says.

"New Zealand and India are Commonwealth countries with many principles and interests in common," he says. "Our country is very popular there through a shared love of cricket and pride in both our film-making industries. Sir Richard's appointment is not only recognition of those aspects, but also a nod to the 2015 World Cricket Cup, co-hosted by us and Australia. By then, we hope to have improved access to the South Island through codeshares with existing carriers and an Indian airline service here. Over the past five years, Indian visitor numbers to Christchurch have grown by 55 per cent, a trend we hope to see continue."

Mr Boult says the Japanese market has been significant for the South Island for many years, with Japanese visitors opting to arrive in Christchurch to be closer to the scenery they come looking for.

"The South Island is a 'must' in any Japanese travel itinerary and tour companies are always considering new southern experiences for their travellers. We look forward to working with Brad to encourage travel companies to bring more Japanese visitors here directly, then transfer to a short service to Mt Cook or Queenstown.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism Chief Executive Tim Hunter is confident the Japanese visitor market has considerably more growth potential, especially over the summer months when direct air services are operating from Tokyo to Christchurch.

"At its peak, New Zealand welcomed more than 178,000 Japanese visitors in 2004, with the vast majority wanting to see the South Island," he says. "Whilst that number has declined considerably a stronger Japanese Yen resulted in a resurgence of demand in 2010. The South Island is still what Japanese visitors come to see, so we believe offering more flight options that connect our iconic South Island tourism regions will bring more of them back here."

Related Links & Downloads