Social impacts of tourism on Christchurch

Social impacts: perceptions

The impacts of tourism on the people and society of a tourist destination vary depending on the stage of tourist development. Social impacts are greater at the later stages of development. Christchurch however can be considered at a mature stage of tourism development, probably at Butler’s (1980) Development Stage of tourism development. At this stage residents still hold a positive attitude towards tourism and further development. The Christchurch population does not hold a singular or shared attitude towards tourism because different groups within the community experience the impacts differently.

Research by Doxey (1975: cited in Simmons & Fairweather, 2005) into the perceptions of residents in a popular North American tourist town, Niagara-on-the-Lake, shows that residents attitudes towards tourism vary from Euphoria, where residents’ enjoy and welcome tourism to Antagonism, where residents’ irritation is openly expressed and tourists are seen as the source of all problems. Research in Christchurch by Lincoln University shows a similar diversity in perceptions of tourism by residents. However, it was found that clear majority of Christchurch residents are unable to identify any problems or personal costs associated with tourism development in the city.

Table 13. What residents think about the current level of tourism development in Christchurch

Percentage (%)
Very high 7
High 30
Moderate 59
Low 4
Very Low 0
Total 100

Table 14. What residents think are the personal costs of tourism in Christchurch

Residents' perceptions Percentage (%)*
Road safety/dangerous driving 13
Increased congestion 10
Cultural clash 9
Increased strain on infrastructure 6
Communication problems 3
No problems/costs 60


*Multiple responses obtained. Figures do not total 100 per cent.


Table 15. What residents think are the personal benefits of tourism in Christchurch

Residents' perceptions Percentage (%)*
Economic/financial  95
Cultural interaction  24
Improved facilities for locals  18
Employment opportunities  16

*Multiple responses obtained. Figures do not total 100 per cent.

Positive perceptions of tourism impacts

  • The most positive attitudes were towards the economic and financial benefits associated with tourism development in the city.
  • Increased ‘cultural interaction’.
  • Tourists provide the city with a ‘cosmopolitan feel’, lending vibrancy to Christchurch.
  • Tourism encourages cultural and ethnic tolerance.
  • Tourism provides improved facilities for local residents.
  • There are more things for locals to see and do as a result of tourism.
  • Many feel the city is much tidier because of tourism-related beautification work undertaken by the city council.
  • Tourism related employment opportunities.

Negative perceptions of tourism impacts

  • The bad and often dangerous driving of visitors on Christchurch roads.
  • Increased congestion in the city.
  • A ‘cultural clash’, many residents have reported the rudeness and arrogance of tourists towards residents.
  • Many residents are made to feel subservient to visitors.
  • Increased strain on infrastructure.
  • Communication problems.

Butler R. 1980. The Concept of a Tourist Area Cycle of Evolution: Implications for Management of Resources, Canadian Geographer, 24.

Shone, M.C., Simmons, D.G. and Fairweather, J.R. (2003). Community Perceptions of Tourism in Christchurch and Akaroa. Tourism Recreation Research and Education Centre (TRREC), Lincoln University, Report No. 34.

Simmons, D.G. and Fairweather, J. (Eds.) (2005). Understanding the Tourism Host-Guest Encounter in New Zealand: Foundations for Adaptive Planning and Management. Christchurch, New Zealand: EOS Ecology.

Learning activities

  1. Study Table 13. Make a generalisation about Christchurch residents' attitudes to tourism development.
  2. Study Table 14. Make a generalisation about the three highest scoring responses.
  3. From Table 14. List the two lowest scoring responses. What generalisations can you make?
  4. Study Table 15. What implications does this have for the planning of tourism development? 

Page last updated on: 02/02/2010