Christchurch rebuilds for the future
The operators of Christchurch International ably demonstrated the resilient spirit of the New Zealand people when they reopened the airport only 24 hours after the devastating earthquake struck the city on February 22 2010. It has stayed open ever since and forged on with its plans to expand.
Christchurch International, the country’s second largest airport, is the main arrival point for visitors to New Zealand’s scenically beautiful South Island. It handled 6 million passengers in 2010, but traffic is growing fast and is expected to reach 8 million by 2014, necessitating the opening of a new terminal with much better shopping and dining offer.
But more of these plans later. The existing retail offer extends to around 35 different shops, but although the duty-free shopping at the airport is undoubtedly good, the rest of the offer lacks depth and variety. Here is our guide to the best of what is currently available.
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.
Some exciting changes are afoot in this part of the airport. Christchurch’s ageing existing domestic terminal is set to make way for a shiny new replacement, which will boast a much superior retail and dining offer, as well as many other improvements such a state-of-the airport baggage system and more car parking spaces.
The new facility doesn’t come online until 2012, sadly, so for the moment travellers will have to make do with the rather limited existing selection of shops and cafés.
Having said that, we do rather like the icebreaker outlet, which specialises in high-performance sporting and outdoor clothing lines made from merino wool, one of New Zealand’s most valuable exports. If you still believe wool has to be clunky and scratchy, this Kiwi fashion brand’s cool and silky-smooth designs might make you think again (www.icebreaker.com).
Another outlet worth browsing is the Next Stop Antarctica store, which as the name suggests celebrates the fascinating, but decidedly chilly world of the most southerly continent. It sells books and DVDs, as well as jewellery, clothing, soft toys (penguins are unsurprisingly prominent), and various souvenirs. See http://www.antarcticshop.com/default.asp for further details of what’s on offer.
CD’s are fast following in the forgotten footsteps of cassette tapes and vinyl LP’s, but the 1980s wonder invention still has many fans, and the Marbecks outlet (open daily 8am-9pm) has a pretty decent selection. It stocks a range of DVD’s too.
If you want to grab something to eat before you fly, pre-security-located Wishbone is probably your best bet. It serves everything from risottos and soups to muffins and muesli. The health-conscious will also be pleased to know it offers veggie, low-fat, dairy-free and gluten-free options.
Christchurch airport website: http://www.christchurchairport.co.nz/
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