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Chch Airport Reputation at Risk - Tourism Entrepreneur

Christchurch Airport Reputation at Risk - Tourism Entrepreneur

By Fleur Revell
20 March 2014

A local tourism entrepreneur is warning that Christchurch Airport risks losing its international reputation if it continues to charge what he says are “excessive” public transport access prices.

The concern comes after Christchurch International Airport was highly commended in the global Route Awards earlier this week.

Graeme Harris from Airpark Canterbury says the airport needs to ensure that the cost structure of its ancillary service providers is equitable, or the airport could lose its favourable standing among the international and local tourism communities.

He says the high cost of doing business with the airport is making it uneconomic for businesses such as his to continue to operate.

Harris, who has one of the only privately owned park and ride operation which assists Cantabrians and businesses travelling from the region, says he must pay a set fee each time he picks up from the airport.

Harris believes the fee structure is inequitable and stacked against smaller operators.

“It costs me $10 per pick up for my van which has a maximum capacity of 10 passengers, in comparison a bus which can carry up to 60 travellers pays only $21,” he says.

Harris says his is not the only business affected with hotels and motels upping the prices on rooms to cover the additional costs required to run their shuttle services to and from the airport.

Currently he says the airport barrier arm pricing structure is on par with New Zealand's biggest city Auckland - but without the potential for the same level of profitability per customer.

“An Auckland taxi driver pays approximately the same amount of money per visit but because of the distance from the city centre can easily earn over $100 per fare - and without the overheads that a business like ours has to cover. Whereas with our company we have a separate parking facility which brings with it higher costs.”

Harris says his own business, which operates 24/7 is struggling to grow as his cost structure has escalated to the point of no longer being commercially viable.

“When we launched this business in 2012 the cost per airport pickup was $2, within six months that had been hiked up to $10 per pickup. With an unexpected increase like this, it is very hard for a business like ours to operate, and we know we are not the only ones who are unhappy with the situation.

“Without tourism support services like the one we run, I believe Christchurch will become less attractive as a destination to domestic and international travellers.

“These travellers need services which offer them a greater degree of convenience, just last week I had to pick up a wheelchair bound athlete whose special vehicle could not navigate the judder bars on the roadway in front of the airport entrance,” he says.

Harris says the airport which is primarily owned by the council is making the ratepayer foot the bill once again with these increased costs.

"If someone takes a council owned bus from the airport into the city the fare is $7.50, but if the customer walks just past the barrier arm to the first public bus stop they can catch a bus for just $3.50 for the same distance. Our drivers are prevented from picking up passengers outside of the barrier arm."

Harris says he hopes that by speaking frankly about his concerns he will draw public attention to the issue.

For more information visit the Airpark Canterbury website at www.airparkcanterbury.co.nz

ENDS

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