Monday's earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed more than 100 people and left many more missing. As rescue teams searched collapsed buildings for survivors, two local NTA tour operator members reacted to the devastating event.
"It really has been a disaster of Biblical proportion," said Martin Horgan, managing director of Southern World New Zealand. "We just don't appreciate the extent of the damage yet."
Horgan said the tour company's Christchurch staff is safe and well.
The quake's destruction is limited to Christchurch, and Southern World is managing its clients' New Zealand arrangements "very carefully," according to Horgan. "We are making alternative arrangements and accommodating clients near to, but not in Christchurch itself," he said. "The remainder of the country has not been affected directly, so it really is business as usual elsewhere."
Another NTA member, Alastair Calder of Calder & Lawson Tours in Hamilton, NZ, had a similar message. His company's clients visiting New Zealand had either just left or were about to go to Christchurch when the earthquake struck.
"For those still to go there we have been able to reorganize itineraries, finding alternative accommodations," Calder said. "This proves yet again the value of an inbound tour operator."
Tourism New Zealand is posting updates on its Web site. The Christchurch airport has reopened, but operators are urged to redirect travellers away from the city for the next week, the NTA reported.
The NTA noted that while Calder and Horgan are confident that Christchurch will build back and the country's tourism industry will quickly recover, both have been deeply touched by the destruction-and the world's response.
"It is very heartening to receive messages from around the globe," Calder said. "Rest assured we will bounce back as a nation and remain the welcoming country we have always been."