A vibrant central city needs a range of attractions and reasons for people to visit.

A well-formed and vibrant city centre produces economic and social benefits by bringing people together for business, cultural or social activities. The result is greater productivity, connectedness, development of human capital, sharing of ideas and a shared identity.



Key findings

Non-work visits Increasing trendIncreasingTrend There has been an increase since 2016 in the proportion of residents visiting the central city on a weekly basis for non-work reasons. Further information.
Reason for non-work visits No change
Eating out or going to bars has consistently been the main reason given for visiting the central city for non-work purposes, by around half of respondents. Further information.
Resident satisfaction with the range of things to do Increasing trend

Almost 90% of respondents agreed that the central city provided a range of restaurants, cafes and bars.

Almost 70% agreed there is a range of things to do in the central city for everyone. Further information.

Tourist satisfaction with the range of things to do  Snapshot

In 2018, Australian visitors were slightly more satisfied than other international visitors with their overall experience of Christchurch, with an average rating of 8.6 out of 10. Further information.

Visitor accommodation Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

At June 2019 there were 43 commercial accommodation establishments. 17 were hotels, 17 were motels, and 9 were backpackers. Further information.

Guest nights at commercial accommodation Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

The number of guest nights at central city accommodation has increased annually from 227,000 in 2012 to 1,104,000 in 2019. Further information.

Pedestrian counts Snapshot

In January 2018, Cashel Mall (between Ballantynes and the Bridge of Remembrance) had the highest counts of foot traffic out of the key central city sites.

Foot traffic varies by day of the week and time of the day. Further information.

Stationary activity Snapshot

The most common activities that people do in central city spaces include socialising, observing, shopping and eating. Further information.

Perceptions of safety Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

In 2019, 90% of people felt safe in the central city during the day time, which fell to 54% at night.

More than 60% of those who felt unsafe at night cited the presence of people affected by alcohol/drugs, or other anti-social behaviours. Further information.

Frequency of non-work visits to central city

Residents are visiting the central city for non-work or non-education purposes more frequently, as the rebuild continues and there are more things to do and see.

In 2019, 46% of respondents to the Life in Christchurch survey visited the central city around once a week or more for non-work/non-education purposes, compared with 31% in 2016.

The proportion who reported they visited the central city less than once a month for non-work/non-education reasons fell from 30% to 17% between 2016 and 2019, with small increases in the proportion who visit once a week or at least once a month. 

Main reason for visiting central city for non-work visits

Eating out or going to bars was the main reason for visiting the central city for non-work purposes, as reported by around half of Life in Christchurch survey respondents in 2019.

This was followed by shopping (35%), visiting attractions (33%) and entertainment venues (28%).

Tūranga(external link), the newly opened central library, is a key attraction. At the time of the 2019 survey it had been opened for only three months, yet was a main reason for visiting the central city by almost a quarter of respondents.

Range of things to do for locals

The central city must provide a variety of activities, attractions and things to do (e.g. entertainment, shopping, recreational facilities and events) that are appealing to a wide range of people.

In 2019, almost 70% of respondents to the Life in Christchurch survey agreed or strongly agreed that the central city provided a range of things to do for all people. This is up from 60% in 2017.

When asked if the central city provided a range of things to do for families and children, three quarters of respondents agreed, up from two thirds in 2017.

Around 93% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the central city provided a range of restaurants, cafes and bars, with only 2% disagreeing. This was up from 85% in 2017.

Almost 80% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed there was a range of shops, services and entertainment in the central city in 2019. This was up from 62% in 2017.

61% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that there was a range of recreation opportunities in the central city in 2019, compared with 52% in 2017.

47% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed there was a range of education facilities in the central city in 2019, up from 41% in 2017.

Tourist satisfaction

It can be assumed that most, if not all, tourists visiting Christchurch spent time in the central city. The 2018 ChristchurchNZ Visitor Experience survey found that tourists to Christchurch were generally satisfied with their overall experience in Christchurch city.

Domestic tourists and Australian visitors rated their overall experience an average of 8.6 out of 10, compared with 8.4 out of 10 for other international visitors. These ratings were all higher than in 2016, with international visitors increasing from 7.9 to 8.4, domestic visitors increasing from 8.3 to 8.6 and Australian visitors increasing from 8.5 to 8.6 out of 10.

The City's activities and attractions, of which many are located within the central city, were rated highest by domestic and Australian visitors (8.3 out of 10), and lowest by other international visitors (8.1 out of 10). Again, each of these ratings increased from 2016, with other international visitors having the largest increase (from 7.6 to 8.3 out of 10).

In 2018, bars, restaurants and cafes were rated at 8.3 out of 10 by domestic and Australian visitors, increasing from 7.9 and 8.2 respectively in 2016. Once again, other international visitors had the largest increase in ratings, going from 7.6 in 2016 to 8.1 in 2018.

Commercial visitor accommodation

The 2010–2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence had a severe impact on the central city's commercial accommodation establishments. Nearly all were inaccessible for many months due to the central city cordon, some needed repair work, and some required demolition. The accommodation stock was drastically reduced from 63 to 19 between June 2010 and June 2011.

At June 2019, there were 43 commercial establishments located in the central city, which was 21% of the City's total commercial accommodation stock. Prior to the earthquakes, around one quarter of the City's stock was located within the central city Avenues.

In June 2019, there were 17 hotels in the central city. These made up around half of the City's hotel stock, which is similar to the pre-earthquake proportion.

There were 17 motels in the central city in 2018, which made up around 12% of the City's motel stock. Once again, this is similar to the pre-earthquake proportion.

Central city backpackers were particularly affected by the earthquakes, as they tended to be located centrally in older and cheaper buildings. In 2019 there were 9 backpacker establishments in the central city, compared with 19 before the earthquakes. Central city backpackers made up 36% of the City's backpackers stock in 2019, compared with 68% before the earthquakes. 

Airbnb and other informal accommodation providers have become an increasingly important part of the City's visitor accommodation supply. However, this dataset only includes commercial providers and does not include hosted or other informal accommodation.

Guest nights at commercial visitor accommodation

In 2019 there were 1.1 million guest nights at central city commercial accommodation establishments, which was an 11% increase from the previous year. The number of guest nights at central city accommodation establishments fell from 1.7 million per year in 2010 to 227,000 in 2012. This figure has increased annually since.

The impact was greatest for the hotel sector, falling from just over 1.1 million guest nights in 2010 to 50,000 in 2012. For the year ending June 2019, there were 771,000 guest nights at hotels, making up 70% of all commercial guest nights in the central city for 2019.

Motel guest nights at central city establishments have increased annually since the earthquakes and have recovered to pre-quake levels (158,000 in 2019). Backpacker guest nights in the central city have more than doubled since 2012 to 175,000, but remain at less than half of pre-quake levels.

Once again, this data excludes Airbnb and other informal accommodation providers, which have become an increasingly important part of the City's visitor accommodation supply.

Pedestrian counts

Pedestrian activity counts were undertaken at 15 key central city sites in January 2018, over four days between the hours of 8am and 6pm.

Location-wise, the highest amount of foot traffic in the central city was observed in the few blocks south of Cathedral Square.

Cashel Mall (between Ballantynes department store and the Bridge of Remembrance on Oxford Terrace) had the highest recorded amount of foot traffic in 2018. During each two hour period, an average of 2067 pedestrians were observed outside of Ballantynes (an average of 17 per minute), while further down Cashel Mall at the corner of Oxford Terrace, there was an average of 15 pedestrians per minute.

Colombo Street between Cathedral Square and Lichfield Street (by the bus exchange) had the next highest counts, where foot traffic averaged between 10 and 12 pedestrians per minute.

The day of the week and time of day is an important component of foot traffic. None of the 15 sites had their highest levels of foot traffic before noon.

During week days, at 11 of the 15 sites, the lunch period between midday to 2pm resulted in the highest amount of foot traffic. The exceptions were the Crossing (by the Fresh Choice supermarket entrance) which had its busiest periods between 2pm and 6pm; Armagh Street (by the Piano) which was busiest between 2pm and 4pm; and Cathedral Square, which was busiest between 4pm and 6pm.

Friday tended to be the busiest days for most sites, with 11 sites recording their highest averages on this day. In particular, Cashel Mall (outside of Ballantynes) recorded an average of 2,743 pedestrians during a 2-hour period. Tuesday tended to be the next busiest day for foot traffic at most sites. Armagh Street (by the Piano) was the only site which recorded its highest pedestrian counts on a Sunday.

Stationary activity

In order to understand how public places are used and what type of activities are taking place, a public space stationary activity survey was developed by the Christchurch City Council. This differs to counts of how many people area passing through the space. During January 2017, the types of activities and interactions of 5,400 people in the central city were observed at 17 key sites, and up to two activities for each person were recorded.

Socialising with others was the most common type of activity undertaken in the central city, with around half of people observed doing this. The next most common activities were people observing others/things/sites, eating, and people using their phones.

Overall, sites were busiest between midday and 1.30pm, and all types of activities peaked during this period, except for recreation activities which peaked between 1.30pm and 3pm. All sites had the least activity taking place between 8am and 10am.

Cashel Mall (West) and Cathedral Square sites were observed having the most activities taking place, particularly with large groups socialising, observing, shopping and eating. Typically, where there are cafes and food, there are more people using spaces. Some of the most unused sites included Latimer Square, the Arts Centre Market Square, and the Art Gallery area. 

Safety during the day and at night

The 2019 Life in Christchurch survey found around 92% of residents felt safe in the central city during the day (56% felt 'very safe' and 36% felt 'fairly safe'). This was up from 90% in the 2017 and 2018 surveys.

Perceptions of safety at night improved in 2019 compared to previous survey years, however it is still much lower than perceptions of safety during the day. At night, 54% felt safe (9.5% felt 'very safe' and 44.5% felt 'fairly safe) in 2019. 

People reported feeling unsafe in the central city at night largely due to perceptions around unsafe people or unsafe environments.

In 2019, of those who indicated that they felt unsafe in the central city at night, the most common reasons for feeling like this was due to people under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol (70% of those who felt unsafe at night), anti-social behaviour (62%) and isolated areas (53%). These results are similar to previous years.

There have been steady annual increases in the proportion of respondents citing the presence of beggars and homeless people in the streets as a reason for feeling unsafe at night. Those who answered 'begging' increased from 27 to 45% between 2017 and 2019, while those who answered 'homeless people' increased from 31 to 48% over the same period.


Further information

Please email monitor@ccc.govt.nz for further information.

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