DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
MAKING PROGRESS: Tim Dearsley, hotel manager of the Ibis Hotel, stands near the boundary of the central city red-zone cordon, with the hotel in the background.
While other hotels, including the Rendezvous, have talked of being the first back into business after quake repairs, it looks like the Ibis has won the race.Ibis hotel manager Tim Dearsley says when the Hereford St property reopens on September 4 it will be the first hotel inside the cordoned centre of quake-hit Christchurch to host travellers again.
Dearsley, who was formerly the general manager of All Seasons Christchurch, said the 155 room, 8-storey Ibis has been taking "quite strong" bookings on its website from Kiwis, Australians and North Americans.
To allow visitors into the Ibis the Hereford St part of the cordon would likely be relaxed from some time in early August, he said. The hotel would give travellers good access to the Re:Start mall in Cashel St.
Preparation for the visitors and the repair of a first floor restaurant and bar had been intense. Repairs had included strengthening of the stairwells, putting resin in concrete cracks and bringing the building up to the new seismic code for Christchurch
"We've had up to 165 guys working on the site a day, we've had [contractor] Hawkins working on it for over a year."
Hawkins would hand over the building on July 27, giving Accor about five weeks to finish the fitout of rooms and training of staff, who would number 60.
Project manager The Building Intelligence Group was overseeing both the Ibis and the Accor group's other hotel, the Novotel, located in Cathedral Square and also under repair for about $3.6 million of quake damage. The possible date for opening of the Novotel was August-September 2013.
Both the Ibis and Novotel had sufficient business interruption insurance, through a European insurer, to get through to their respective re- opening dates, Dearsley said.
He is in close contact with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), having as a result of the earthquakes worked as a tourism industry consultant for the authority. He finished that role at the end of June.
However, during that time he remained on the Accor payroll, giving him more independence in his role with Cera, he said.
The hotel had received its detailed engineering evaluation through Cera, allowing it to get a code of compliance from the Christchurch City Council.
During his time in the Cera role Dearsley led a recovery operation for the hospitality sector, overseeing the return of about 1000 pieces of luggage to owners in 37 countries. One piece he remembers in particular is the return of a $25,000 diamond engagement ring to a Sydney man who was in Christchurch for a medical conference when the earthquake struck. The ring was retrieved from a room in the Ibis.
He also helped oversee the cleanup of hundreds of tonnes of rotting food from CBD hotels and restaurants, having to chuck out pairs of shoes that retained the smell of the spoiled produce.
Other projects including helping hospitality owners get consents through Christchurch City Council and retrieving business records from within the red zone.
He has also helped with other Cera projects around certain buildings or areas including New Regent St, Alice in Videoland, and the Re:Start Mall.
The main block of the All Seasons Christchurch in Papanui Rd would possibly be demolished and rebuilt, with a second block of 24 rooms staying in place.The Accor chain's All Seasons Hotel in Cashel St, next to the Hotel Grand Chancellor, which is being demolished, was still being assessed. "I guess they're costing out the repairs versus rebuild," Dearsley said.