Arriving at a major international airport can be a pretty dispiriting way of entering a new country. Low ceilings, threadbare carpets, flickering lights and grumpy, monosyllabic Customs officers• we’ve all been there, but Christchurch international is determined to do things differently.
Earlier this year the airport unveiled a “multi-sensory international arrivals experience”, which showcases the natural beauty of the South Island. Air bridge corridors are covered in specially commissioned photos, and filled with the sounds (and apparently even smells) of the native Kiwi landscape and wildlife.
The immigration queuing area goes one better, boasting Australasia’s largest video wall. It features 54 seamlessly linked plasma screens that play looping clips to create a hypnotic and calming effect. Impressive stuff no doubt, but don’t let all the special effects stop you from browsing the well-run arrivals duty-free store, which is run by JR Duty Free.
Arrivals duty-free shopping is rather popular in New Zealand as the country has a very generous personal allowance• three bottles of spirits, six bottles of wine (yes, you read that right), and 200 cigarettes. JR Duty Free also stocks a good range of spirits, New Zealand wines, cigarettes, fragrances, cosmetics, confectionery and watches.
JR Duty Free also runs the airport’s departures duty-free outlet and the company’s excellent customer website, www.jrdutyfree.co.nz
, allows travellers to buy before they fly and then collect their purchases on the day of departure.
Elsewhere, New Zealand’s first department store Ballantynes (www.ballantynes.co.nz), which first opened its doors in Christchurch way back in 1854, is the place to go for gifts and souvenirs, while another of the country’s iconic retailers Whitcoulls (www.whitcoulls.co.nz) is the store for books and magazines.
The choice of places to eat is pretty poor all things considered. Granted, there are plenty of cafés, but places to actually eat something substantial are thin on the ground.